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School Business Manager to Get $86,000 In Unused Vacation Pay

Ruth Quinn Berdell stands to collect nearly 32 weeks of unused vacation carried over her more than two decades working for the schools.

The school business manager is owed $86,000 for unused vacation, half of which was recently paid by the town in an effort to correct ongoing accounting problems in the department.

Wellesley Patch has confirmed that School Business Manager Ruth Quinn Berdell was given a check for $43,000 representing nearly 16 weeks of unused vacation pay which she has carried over during the course of her 26 years of employment with the town.

The payment was calculated based on her current rate of pay which is $139,750 annually, according to town records.

She had a total of nearly 32 unpaid vacation weeks, representing 156 days, so she will receive a second check for $43,000 next year.

A second school department employee whose name has not yet been released, was also paid approximately $15,000 in unused vacation pay.

The payouts come after town officials told school officials the town can no longer continue to carry the unfunded liability from year to year, according to School Committee Chairwoman Suzy Littlefield who said she has been aware of the situation for several years and has been working with the town’s Audit Committee over the past year to rectify the situation.

“This was a previous policy that she was allowed to rollover vacation,” Littlefield said. “This is something that happens when you have outdated policies.”

Littlefield said the policy of allowing school employees to carry unused vacation days from one year to the next will no longer be allowed.

But according to Littlefield, Berdell had been allowed to forgo vacation by the current Superintendent Bella T. Wong and by past superintendents.

A message left with Wong’s office was not returned last night. A person in the business office referred all calls for Berdell regarding this issue to the superintendent’s office.

“She (Berdell) is legally owed this money,” Littlefield said, adding that if Berdell left the position tomorrow the town would have to pay the whole sum.

“I am working hard to improve the business office service to the schools and to the town,” Littlefield said, adding that the power of the elected school committee over employees lies only in hiring and dismissing superintendents. All other school employees fall under the direct supervision of Wong, her administrators and department heads.

“We have been in conversations with the superintendent about our expectations for the business office,” she said.

Littlefield said she has heard from several people in town and has reached out to people concerned with the problems in the business office including issues with and inadequate systems in place to account for an estimated $6 million in athletic, transportation, preschool and other fees paid to the school department.

“This is my top priority,” she said.

Town Hall employees work with a “use it or lose it” policy regarding vacation pay, and are not allowed to roll over unused days from one year to the next, according to the town’s Finance Director Sheryl Strother.

She said in extenuating circumstances employees may apply for a waiver to carry no more than 10 days of vacation pay over for one year with formal approval from the town’s Human Relations Board.

Union employees such as police officers and firefighters fall under rules negotiated under their collective bargaining agreements, which may differ from the town’s policy.

Eilliot 1967 November 04, 2011 at 01:08 AM
You are right Magellan enough is enough. You select few folks are smearing this lady based on 2 or 3 articles written by authors who clearly have their own agenda. I feel bad that you all are so irresponsibly naive. Are any of you up to date on how public schools should run? How about school business offices? I doubt it because you would know better. You people and that sideshow PluffMelow need to get a life. Every school business system has problems dealing with student activity accounts and/or foodservice because they are relying on parents to send checks in on time or even at all. They are the ones not paying. You want to be a voice? Get on them! Release the names for all I care. I would love to be a voice for that myself. Ruth Quinn Berdell is the reason we don't have more problems and that is a fact. No money has ever been mishandled and no money has ever gone missing. Check the archives of these fine writers, you clearly have the time. Would you sleep better if she went to all the deadbeats houses and held their hand while they made out the checks even though they continuously failed to acknowledge the statements sent home every month? She'd do it but we might have to pay her vacation time for doing her.... job. The one she has excelled at for my town for more than 26 years.
MJ November 04, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Elliott 1967, you are entitled to your opinion but your remarks disparaging those who disagree with you do not help support your view. You have made very broad assumptions and are doing EXACTLY what you accuse everyone commenting here of doing. Next time, make your point; don't trash other taxpayers.
ThinkQuisitive November 04, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Elliott 1967, You have obviously never worked with or for Ms. Berdell. She would never have tolerated anybody else's contract not being renewed to reflect current policy. Nor would she have allowed that much money in unused vacation to accrue on their behalf. I submit to you: why was the value of the unused vacation time calculated on her CURRENT salary, and not on the salary she was making the year of the unused vacation? Over 26 years' time, that is a significant difference. Information shared here is not based on 2 or 3 articles. It is based on the observation and experience of those who have been involved with Ms. Berdell over many years and know how she conducts her business.
MJ November 04, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Good point as to the value of accrued vacation time, ThinkQuisitive...
Penny November 06, 2011 at 06:31 PM
First, my congratulations to the reporter - finally some information on the schools that is not completely biased! Excellent reporting and writing! My thoughts are around the School Committee Chairwoman's comment that Ms. Berdell is "legally" owed the money. I don't doubt that. But I question whether one is ethically owed the money. I simply would not be comfortable accepting that payment from the schools and, ultimately, from the taxpayers. The fantastic benefits including a now unheard-of-in-any-other-line- of-business pension would be enough for me. I also want to heartily agree that the calculation of the payment needs to be confirmed. As the astute comment above stated, this unused time was not earned at Ms. Berdell's current salary level, and should, therefore, not be paid on that basis.

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