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December 30. 2013 9:18PM

Epping librarian reinstated by trustees


Epping children's librarian Tracie Wilkins hugs a supporter Monday after trustees announced that she would be reinstated. She was fired in July after exceeding the number of allowable sick days. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EPPING — An Epping children's librarian fired after taking too many unpaid sick days is back on the job.

Trustees from the Harvey-Mitchell Memorial Library said Monday that Tracie Wilkins will be reinstated, but they would not provide specifics regarding her return to the part-time position she's held for the last 10 years.

Surrounded by about 20 supporters, including parents and children, Wilkins smiled after trustee Chairman Michael Vose announced the decision to allow her to return.

Others applauded her reinstatement and lined up to give her hugs in the children's room downstairs.

Wilkins, who worked 32 hours a week, was fired in July after exceeding the number of unpaid sick days allowed during a one-year period.

According to trustees, Wilkins was warned that if she took more than 10 sick days a year she would be dismissed. The trustees took action when she took another sick day after reaching her limit by July 16, sparking anger among her supporters and prompting a public appeal.

A hearing on her appeal was held in public two weeks ago.

At that hearing, Library Director Bradley Green said Wilkins took "far too many days off from work" and that trustees developed an attendance policy because they were "out of patience with Tracie being an unreliable employee because of her chronic absences from work."

Wilkins admitted that she has missed time from work, but said the absences were largely due to her clinical depression.

Wilkins declined to comment on the decision as she left the library following Monday's announcement, but those who have stood by her and organized protests and petitions urging trustees to reverse their decision said they were relieved.Wilkins was handed a letter signed by the trustees detailing their decision and the terms of her reinstatement, but Vose would not share the letter publicly because he said it was a personnel matter.

"We don't know what's going to happen from this point, but we're assuming that she's back, reinstated, and we're all very, very pleased about that. This is what we've wanted since (July)," said Debbie Deary, one of several parents who staged a rally outside the library with their children to show support for Wilkins after the firing.

Deary and her children attended Monday night's meeting to hear the announcement.

"She's caring and she's more like a friend than a librarian," said her 10-year-old daughter, Izzy.

Former Epping library director Amanda Reynolds Cooper, now director of the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton, also came out to show her support.

"I'm so pleased and so overwhelmed and so excited. It was not the outcome I was expecting and I'm overjoyed," she said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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