District denies Cunningham’s request
MINDEN – The Douglas County School District has rejected a transfer request from Gardnerville Elementary Principal Kirk Cunningham for the same reason he was transferred from Jacks Valley Elementary School a year ago – too many absences.
Cunningham received a memo from Superintendent Pendery Clark on March 30 that denied his request to be considered for one of the open middle school principal positions.
Clark cited his absences and “overall job performance” as reasons for the denial.
“(It) would indicate you are not ready to assume the primary responsibility for any school. Therefore, your request is denied,” Clark wrote.
Clark declined comment Tuesday, but has said Cunningham used all 27-1/2 sick days allotted to him this year by December 1999. However, he has not missed any days since then.
According to school district spokeswoman Maggie Allen, administrators’ absences are highly disruptive to the whole school and that in the school year 1998-99, the average number of work days missed by other administrators was 7.4 days.
Cunningham, 49, who was a Jacks Valley principal for 15 years and has been with the district for 23 years, filed a suit against the school district claiming he was unfairly demoted in March 1999.
Cunningham was transferred from the school last year and named a principal on special assignment, working with Gardnerville principal Richard Brownfield, after using 70 days of accrued sick leave during the last year he was principal of Jacks Valley. Cunningham contended he had the right, as stated in his contract, to use 90 days of sick leave.
Cunningham claimed Nevada law and his contract gave him the right not to be transferred and he was demoted to a position of less responsibility, but U.S. District Judge David W. Hagen wrote in his summary judgment – filed March 10 – that Cunningham’s contract did not protect him from transfers.
Cunningham said he has only used the time allowed to him.
“Last year at this time, I had missed 80 days, so I think that is a significant change,” Cunningham said. “I think it’s absurd, it’s bizarre, but it’s life. I think there are many people in this district who take that kind of sick leave every year. You earn sick leave, and as long as you don’t abuse it, I don’t think you should be punished for using it. I have verifiable proof I was sick and needed to use that time. I’m just glad I didn’t have cancer. I probably would have been fired by now.”
Clark confirmed that only one principal will be required at GES next year if the school is taken off multi-track as planned. However, she would not say specifically what would become of Cunningham.
“I’m just planning on working in this district. I’m still a tenured principal and they need to deal with me at that level. They’re not putting me in another site as a principal, so the ball’s in their court. In the meantime, I plan on doing the best job I can, which is what I have been doing all along,” he said.
In addition, on March 24, the district made good on its threat to ask the U.S. District Court in Reno to order Cunningham to pay the district’s $46,996 legal fees.
“They filed a motion and I don’t know where that’s going to go. I still have the right to appeal and I’m weighing my options,” Cunningham said.