In an unusual move, the Janesville School District is allowing a principal to take paid leave while she pursues more education.

Synthia Taylor, principal of Marshall Middle School, has been on a leave of absence since the beginning of winter break.

Taylor is “taking time to concentrate on completing coursework for her doctoral degree and obtaining her Wisconsin licensure for director of instruction,” school district spokesman Patrick Gasper wrote in an email to The Gazette.

Scott Garner, assistant superintendent and director of human resources, said it is standard practice for educational costs to be covered as part of a principal’s contract.

It is unusual, Garner said, for the district to allow an employee to take a paid leave of absence to pursue a degree.

“It was a special circumstance,” he said.

When asked about the circumstance, Gasper responded that Taylor was interested in “transitioning into a new area of expertise—curriculum—as well as finishing up her dissertation. The district is supporting her in this endeavor.”

Taylor started working for the district in August 2008, when she was hired as Marshall’s principal. She is paid $121,609 for a 12-month contract that runs July 1 through June 30.

Garner said it is unknown whether Taylor will return next year. In his email to The Gazette, Gasper wrote that “the district has no current plans to issue non-renewals to administrators.”

While she is on leave, Marshall Assistant Principal Mike Matteson is filling in as principal with district administrators from the educational services center, “stepping in to assist as needed.” There is no additional cost to the district, Gasper said.

When asked if district officials were concerned that offering paid leave to employees pursuing education degrees would set a precedent, Gasper replied, “No.” When asked if others would be given paid leave for the same reason, Gasper said that would be decided on a case-by-case basis.