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A Davis School District elementary principal's request for a sabbatical leave to complete doctorate work has been tabled by the Board of Education.

Ross Quist, Centerville Elementary principal, is seeking the sabbatical to take advantage of a teaching fellowship offer at Utah State University.Superintendent Richard Kendell recommended approval of the leave, saying it would have long-term benefits for the district and the school's students. Kendell said it is rare for an active educator to receive an offer extensive enough to allow completion of work on a doctorate in a single year, and he believes the district should take full advantage of such opportunities.

Board member Robert Thurgood said he opposes sabbatical leaves for public school employees. He believes they are both expensive and disruptive to district operations.

Under the Davis policy, employees granted sabbaticals are paid half their normal salaries in return for guarantees that they will return to the district in either the same or a similar assignment.

In Quist's case, Kendell is proposing that an acting principal be named for the school next year to ensure that Quist can return to his current assignment. He said the person taking the position would be informed in advance that the assignment is temporary.

But Thurgood said he is especially concerned about a leave that would affect a principal, which may be especially disruptive. "I don't see the benefit to either the school or the district."

Board member Louenda Downs took a different view. She said students benefit directly from such leaves because they receive back a teacher who is better trained and who has been rejuvenated. She noted that many of the recently appointed principals in the district were sabbatical recipients just a few years ago, and she believes their value to the district was increased by their taking advantage of the leave program.

"Overall I think it is the kids who benefit, because the teachers come back better people," Downs said.

Beth Beck, Davis Education Association president, said the district benefits from sabbaticals because teachers involved get an opportunity to see what is happening elsewhere and bring that information back. She said such leaves are healthy for the teachers and the district.

"We don't have all the answers, and this is a chance for new ideas to be brought back to the district," Beck said.

Thurgood said he is not opposed to educators improving their skills, but said he sees a lot of difference between weeklong training seminars and the yearlong sabbaticals.

Since only three board members were present at the meeting, Downs suggested the request be tabled until the April 19 meeting to give all five board members a chance to vote on the request.