Wake Ed

Wake County school board members say they don’t want to restrict gifts to teachers

Wake County school board members say they have no intention of restricting the public from giving gifts to teachers even as they review the district’s gift policy.

As noted in today’s article, school board members said they only want to provide clarity that gifts are permitted and to spell out a dollar limit instead of just saying that “token gifts of insubstantial value” are allowed. What’s messy is how they’ll handle the legal advice that continuing to allow teachers to receive gift cards for their personal use violates the current policy ban on cash gifts.

"In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, I want to start by being very clear and reach out to teachers and staff today and set the record straight regarding the Board of Education’s recent review of the school board policy concerning gifts to our employees,” school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said during Tuesday board comments. “A recent newspaper article seemed to imply that the school board’s review of this policy was somehow intended to limit or reduce gifts to teachers.

In fact, just the opposite was intended and is true. We are trying to clarify the policy across the system so that parents and community members wishing to show their appreciation for our wonderful teachers can do so in a generous and meaningful manner.

The Board of Education is aware of the mounting issues that are challenging teachers on so many fronts. I commit to you – to each of you – that board members will continue to work on the behalf of teachers, that we will try to improve the economic employment conditions of our valuable teachers. Your working conditions are our students’ learning conditions and nothing could be more important to this board.”

School board member Jim Martin, chairman of the policy committee overseeing the review, also weighed in during the board member comments.

"I just want to reinforce a little bit what Chair Kushner mentioned about the teacher gift policy,” Martin said. “From the policy committee perspective, that policy was raised to our attention around Thanksgiving last year when some groups wanted to give gifts to teachers and some principals were saying ‘No you can’t do that.’

When we went back and looked at the policy and saw that it’s vague at best and needs to be more clearly defined so that we actually can afford the opportunity to constructively give gifts. That’s what we’re going do as we look at the policy.

In no way are we going to look to try to say ‘No, no you can’t give gifts.’ We will try to make it so that if we can do it in an appropriate, effective and legal fashion to protect everybody."

While not intended, the review could wind up putting into policy some restrictions to what’s essentially a don’t ask, don’t tell situation now involving gift cards and other gifts to teachers.

There is a potential work around on continuing to allow gift cards for personal use.

A school board member said they might eliminate the ban on cash gifts. While both cash and gift cards would be allowed, the new dollar limit ban would govern things.

How comfortable school leaders would be allowing parents and the public to give cash directly to teachers, even at what’s supposed to be a nominal amount, remains to be seen.