Fired Epping children's librarian gets public hearing
Tracie Wilkins stood before the board of library trustees at a hearing that was held in public at her request.Wilkins was terminated from her part-time job as children's librarian at the Harvey-Mitchell Memorial Library in July and has seen a groundswell of support from parents and other community members ever since.
With lawyers for Wilkins and the trustees present, Library Director Bradley Green said Wilkins, who worked 32 hours a week, was told in July 2012 that she would be allowed 10 unpaid sick days a year and would face termination if she exceeded the number.
Green said Wilkins reached her limit of 10 sick days by July 16, at which point she was warned that she would lose her job if she took another day.
He complained about how her absences disrupted the library and forced the cancellation of story times and other activities when she failed to show up and he wasn't able to find substitutes.
When questioned by John Meyer, Wilkins' attorney, Green said full-time staff members are allowed up to 12 paid sick days a year. Meyer then pressed Green to explain how many additional unpaid weeks those staffers are allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act. Green wouldn't answer, but Meyer said they're entitled to up to 12 weeks.
She also spoke about her positive performance evaluations given by Green in past years. She said she received above average ratings and that she was described as a "highly valued employee."
Wilkins said she always tried to make sure there was a box with items for a substitute to use in her place when she missed work.
She said she rejected the offer, saying trustees proposed making her a 16-hour-a-week children's room assistant with fewer responsibilities.
An online petition and other supporters have urged the board to reinstate Wilkins.
"The comments on the petition and the letters of support and emails have been overwhelming and make me feel that what I have been doing at the library was appreciated and had value and is missed. I think to leave that kind of a hole in the lives of the children in town and the families makes it a bigger issue than just my job and what the library can offer the town," she said.
"I can't imagine a better children's librarian," she said, calling Wilkins a "treasure in this town."Amanda Reynolds Cooper, Epping's former library director, also spoke highly of Wilkins when she worked with her before she left to become director at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton.
Sandy Cray, who brought her grandchildren to the library when Wilkins was there, described her as someone who created a "very nurturing atmosphere."