December 22, 2020


Talking points against the proposed new sick leave policy

  • Forcing quarantined teachers to use their sick leave when they are well enough to do their jobs is a bad policy for teachers, a bad policy for taxpayers, and a bad policy for our students.
  1. Compelling quarantined educators to use their sick leave legally obligates them not to work. 
    1. It restricts them from logging on and continuing to teach online classes, even if they are perfectly able to do so.
    2. This Policy is an unnecessary financial burden on teachers at a time when we cannot afford to give our educators any more reasons to take their talents elsewhere. 
  2. This Policy severely disrupts the continuity of instruction for students. 
    1. When teachers are absent, students have a substitute or an Associate teacher for the time the teacher is out. For a COVID quarantine, this could be 5-10 class days or longer.
    2. However talented or well-meaning, a substitute is not equivalent to a teacher that has been carefully chosen by a school administrator for a particular class or department and has been an integral part of the school community from before our children step onto campus. 
    3. Furthermore, there are not enough substitutes to go around, generally. This problem is particularly critical in AP classes or where certification is needed in GT and Special Education. When there is no appropriate substitute available, our students may get shuffled to another online class in a similar subject, or, in smaller schools, students may even miss two weeks of vital instruction.
  3. Many teachers have children of their own, and contrary to popular wishful thinking, children can indeed contract COVID. 
    1. How would the proposed changes apply if a teacher has to stay home because one of their children has COVID or was exposed to COVID?
  4. Contact tracing is flawed as it is. 
    1. Only covering leave for teachers who can prove they contracted the virus at work sounds like a convenient way for the district to deny COVID coverage to anyone. That is not the sort of relationship between teachers and administration that HISD claims to want to foster.
    2. As parents and taxpayers, we do not want our tax dollars spent on substitutes and HISD central administration investigations of COVID cases. That money is best spent on our full-time teachers and students and efforts to prevent COVID transmission.
  5. This proposed policy change provides an incentive for teachers to not report that they have or have been exposed to COVID-19. Unreported illness could have a severe negative impact on everyone involved.
  6. These circumstances have already disrupted the lives of our students significantly. In order to serve our students well, we need to focus on continuity and consistency. 
  • We ask that no changes in Policy occur on January 4th. 
  • We ask that the current COVID-19 Policy for Teachers remain in place and only be revisited after all HISD Teachers and staff are offered the COVID Vaccine in 2021.

Read More about it here.

December 20, 2020


Dear Trustees Judith Cruz & Patricia K. Allen,

I am writing about the changes to the #Covid-19 sick leave policy recently proposed by the #HISD #Houston Independent School District.

I have become aware that, effective the first day of school in 2021, teachers will be obligated to use up their sick leave should they need to quarantine because of a possible infection or exposure to #COVID. Therefore, made to utilize their sick leave, teachers will not be left to do as they have been all these months and teach from home.

The proposed Covid-19 sick leave policy does NOT allow teachers to utilize all of the tools available to them, their students, and the parents to keep our children moving forward despite these challenging circumstances.  

The proposed Covid-19 sick leave policy does NOT give our professional educators the benefit of the doubt that they deserve nor the flexibility that they have unquestionably earned over the last ten months to determine for themselves if they are well enough to teach online or indeed need to use their sick leave. Meanwhile, schools are forced to find substitutes to fill in for needlessly absent teachers. At specialized schools such as #Carnegie Vanguard, I assure you that our teachers cannot be replaced easily, and even one day of missed instruction can be the equivalent of one week at another school. 

The proposed Covid-19 sick leave policy does penalize honesty in reporting exposure, encourages silence, and turns a blind eye in the face of potential sources of contagion to avoid the negative repercussions HISD has proposed. Teachers lose pay and benefits accrued. The proposed Covid-19 sick leave policy pits a teacher’s desire to support their household against their desire to support their students. 

Furthermore, teachers who do contract COVID will only be granted paid leave if they can prove to the district’s satisfaction that they contracted COVID at work. As has been shown repeatedly, contact tracing has not been done consistently or with any degree of accuracy in Houston or Harris County. A method of reporting and tracking that relies so heavily on the accurate, honest, and frequent testing and monitoring of non-employees, particularly underage persons, by definition, means that there can be no certainty of how or when a teacher may have been exposed. Penalizing teachers for their inability to do the job that our own @Houston Health Department and CDC have been unable to do seems ridiculous on its face.

In conclusion, I sincerely feel that all proposed changes to the Covid-19 sick leave policy should be postponed until the Covid Vaccine (initial dose & booster) are made available to all HISD teachers and support staff. After that time, it seems reasonable to revisit this policy, which has been sufficiently flexible, given the extenuating circumstances our teachers find themselves in for the better part of the last year.

Please reconsider changing HISD’s current sick leave policy.


Maria Castro Calzada, PA-C, CHT – Infectious Disease Specialist and concerned Parent

Carnegie Vanguard High School, Parent & PTO VP Communications & Membership

Lanier Middle School, Parent & PTO Member