Ashley missed a part of last year due to medical issues and she says she was ready to begin this year on time when Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley said that she needed to have an independent fitness for duty exam conducted before being allowed back in to the classroom.
Ashley missed 37 days of school this year due to the testing process and having to wait for results, and WSESU said she would have to use accrued sick time if she wanted to be paid.
Ashley grieved that decision but the board unanimously rejected her claim after a two-and-a-half hour hearing Thursday.
The hearing Thursday was held in open session.
Ashley said she wanted to conduct the hearing in public to bring attention to what she says is unfair and inconsistent treatment by the administration toward some of the teachers in the district.
The board voted 4-1 to hold the hearing in open session, with School Board member Mark Truhan opposing the request.
Ashley can ask an arbitrator to hear her grievance again if the teacher's union agrees.
During the hearing Ashley's attorney, Robert Appel, said the use of sick time should be up to the employee and not the employer, and he said according to the teachers' contract it would not be permissible to use sick time because Ashley at the time was not ill.
Ashley and Stahley had different interpretations on when the district decided it wanted the fitness to return report.
Ashley said the district prevented her from returning to the class on time at the beginning of the school year because it took time to do the exam and wait for results.
The fitness for duty report said Ashley could teach and she returned to her classroom at Academy School on Oct. 18.
Stahley also said Ashley asked for a series of demands before she would return which Stahley said were unreasonable.
That misunderstanding between the two also prolonged her return.
Stahley said Ashley wanted Academy School Principal Andy Paciulli to talk to her class about her medical condition, but Stahley said it would not be appropriate for the principal to talk about those issues with the fourth-grade class.
Ashley said Paciulli did not need to directly address the medical issues, but could have simply talked to the class about the teacher's absence generally.
Paciulli said he was present on the first day Ashley returned to Academy in October.
After the hearing, School Board Chairwoman Margaret Atkinson said the board had six school days to make a decision, but the board met in executive session for about five minutes after the hearing before voting 5-0 against Ashley.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.