Sup’t candidate Wenzel answers criticism of her refusing furlough days


One of the three finalists for the position as superintendent of the Fayette County School System is Peachtree City resident and former Assistant Superintendent Lyn Wenzel.

An issue that surfaced after her name was announced related to a recommendation in early 2009 by former Superintendent John DeCotis that school system administrators take several voluntary furlough days to help out with expenses during the recession.

Though Wenzel was one of 13 administrators who did not take the voluntary furlough days, her explanation for the action is simple. She said in an interview that she was retiring early and was told by DeCotis not to take the furlough days since her lack of a full salary and the fact that her position would not be filled would more than cover the cost savings of the furlough days.

It was in January 2009 that the Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously to furlough a number of school system employees before the end of the fiscal year June 30. The measure was intended to create $303,200 in budget savings that would offset a projected $240,332 deficit for the same period.

“… these (furlough) moves are necessary to balance our budget for this year. It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we have to do,” DeCotis said at the January 2009 meeting.

Those asked to take voluntary furloughs included principals, assistant principals and central office administrators, coordinators and directors who worked under either a 210-day contract or a 240-day contract. The measure stipulated voluntary furlough days due to the nature of their contracts.

Other school system non-contract employees such as secretaries, custodians, maintenance workers and bus shop staff were to be given two involuntary furlough days, for a savings of $110,000.

The employees with a 210-day contract in January 2009 were asked to voluntarily take four furlough days, equal to 1.9 percent of their annual salary. Those with a 240-day contract would take five furlough days, or 2 percent of their annual pay. The savings between late January and June 30 would total $193,000 if all employees participated.

Superintendent John DeCotis said he was confident that the overwhelming majority of 210-day and 240-day contracted employees would agree to the furloughs.

DeCotis was right. A total of 91 administrators out of 104 throughout the Fayette system took furlough days as part of the voluntary furlough process. Then-Assistant Superintendent Lyn Wenzel was one of 13 who did not take the furlough days.

Those unaffected by the furlough vote at that time included employees such as teachers, parapros, bus drivers, school nutrition staff, counselors and media specialists, though they met with mandatory furlough days later in the calendar year.

Speaking Tuesday, Wenzel said the issue surrounding her not taking the furlough days stemmed from a conversation with DeCotis in which she was told not to take the furlough days since she was retiring in May and, additionally, because her position as assistant superintendent would not be filled. That combination would save the school system significantly more than if she took the furlough days, Wenzel said.