After a Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) proceeding, Judge G.W. Chisenhall recommended that the Leon County School Board enter a final order suspending Joseph Burgess – Chiles High School principal – for two weeks without pay.
The ruling came after Superintendent Rocky Hanna filed an Administrative Complaint on July 28, 2021. The complaint alleged that Burgess committed
“misconduct in office” and a “willful neglect of duty” related to compensating employees for additional work.
The Administrative Complaint further alleged that “[j]ust cause exists to discipline [Principal Burgess] with a two-week suspension without pay.”
Principal Burgess disputed the allegations and a hearing was held in for October 7 and 8, 2021.
Tallahassee Reports has previously reported on this matter.
In June 2021, Hanna became aware of possible misconduct at Chiles High School related to the use o f Advanced Placement (AP) funds. After an internal investigation, Hanna recommended that the School Board suspend Burgess for two weeks without pay.
Burgess submitted an appeal and disputed the allegations by Hanna, and the Board then referred the matter to DOAH.
A teacher in Leon County can be paid by three methods: the salary associated with their instructional duties, one or more supplements (a flat rate for providing an additional service such as an academic coach), or hourly work unrelated to their instructional responsibilities.
According to the documents, there is a proper procedure for compensating hourly-as-needed pay separate from a teacher’s salary. Initially, the principal must obtain the district’s approval for the funding and the position. Further, the teachers must record their time working and submit it for review to the principal. The school’s principal is ultimately responsible for verifying the time submitted by teachers doing extra-duty, hourly work.
In this case, it was found that Principal Burgess used a mathematical calculation which automatically paid teachers a fixed monthly rate rather than paying them for actual hours worked.
Burgess and his secretary would take an amount determined by Burgess for each position, divide it by the employee’s established hourly rate, and divide the result over eight to ten pay periods.
According to Hanna’s complaint, Burgess knew that the contract between the district and the Leon Classroom Teachers Association would prevent them from approving “non-bargained supplements” or additional pay. Burgess also knew attempting to pay extra wages using AP funds would be denied as well.
During the hearing, when Burgess was asked how he knew the number of hours the teachers worked, as they were not tracking their time, Burgess responded, “I don’t.” “In my mind, they were paid for the work that they did. That was how it worked,” said Burgess, “My expectation was that they got the work done.”
Ultimately it was determined that Principal Burgess had “no ill intent” in his actions, and there is “no evidence that he used the system for an improper purpose, such as to favor certain teachers,” however, he was found to have committed “misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.”
While there is no evidence of widespread abuse, the document stated that Principal Burgess created an environment where abuses could have occurred. Teachers could have been paid for work they did not perform.
Lastly, Hanna acknowledged a lack of oversight by the district. He testified that new safeguards had been established. Now principals will need their supervisor’s permission to put employees on hourly-as-needed pay.