The Visalia Unified School District will take up an agenda item Tuesday about whether to pay for a substitute teacher in another school district.
And the payment request has raised questions over one trustee's home of record.
Last month, Visalia Unified received a letter from Stockton Unified School District, which employs Visalia Unified Trustee Charles Ulmschneider as a teacher.
Citing a section of the education code, the letter asked Visalia Unified to reimburse Stockton Unified for the cost of hiring a substitute teacher to replace Ulmschneider on the days he leaves work early to attend school board meetings in Visalia.
Ulmschneider told fellow school board members this month that the education code allows for reimbursement of teacher "release time."
A testy exchange ensued between school board president Jim Qualls and Ulmschneider.
Visalia Unified is being asked to "pay for the substitute teacher to replace you while you come down and fulfill your duties as a board member down here," Qualls said to Ulmschneider.
Ulmschneider noted that the request is from Stockton Unified — not him.
Qualls asked Ulmschneider to "clarify" his request, and Ulmschneider said he wanted the school board to look at the education code and consider the request from Stockton Unified.
Qualls said, "But what you are trying to state is, you are asking our school district to reimburse a substitute teacher in Stockton."
"It's in the law," Ulmschneider replied.
"It's in the law," Qualls said, his voice tinged with disbelief.
"Yes," Ulmschneider said, adding that the education code on the subject is complex.
Superintendent Craig Wheaton said later in an interview that under the education code, if a teacher participates in professional duties away from the school district — serving on a commission, for example — the district can ask the agency to reimburse the cost of hiring a substitute.
Qualls then suggested that Ulmschneider had moved out of the area. (School board members are legally required to live in the area they represent.)
"No sir. I'm working out of county. I live here in this city," Ulmschneider said. "Don't imply otherwise."
"You live here?" Qualls asked.
"I do live here," Ulmschneider said.
"You do? Do you live here tonight?" Qualls asked.
"This is my home of residence," Ulmschneider said. "I work out of the county and I have a long commute."
Ulmschneider said in an email message last week that he's trying to find work closer to Visalia.
"Millions of Americans do not change their residency simply because they work out of town or have a long commute," he wrote. "I am here on most weekends, and come to our board meetings during weekdays."
Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee. His column runs Sunday. He can be reached at (559) 441-6104, firstname.lastname@example.org or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.