Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Hernando School Board to let workers donate sick time

SPRING HILL

Springstead High School teacher Steve Davey suffers from a rare and irreversible liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis.

It's a nasty one — the only long-term fix is a liver transplant.

The disease shuts down the bile ducts in the liver, preventing it from functioning properly and getting rid of toxins in the body.

It means Davey is in a nearly constant state of pain or discomfort — roughly 90 percent of the time, he says. It means unexpected emergency room visits. Overnight hospital stays. Trips to Jacksonville to see a specialist.

Davey, 62, is often forced to make a choice: go to the hospital or tough it out in the classroom.

With only three sick days left because of the illness and others before it, many times he chooses the latter.

"I end up coming to school when there are days I don't feel well at all because I can't afford to lose the days," he said.

That's about to change.

The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a new policy allowing employees to donate unused sick time to anyone else in the system.

Several people already have offered to give Davey, who teaches English and speech, some of their days.

He is grateful.

"It takes a monetary burden off of me," he said.

Over the past two years, Davey said, there have been about a half-dozen incidents where he wanted to go to the emergency room but decided he couldn't miss out on the pay.

Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, offered to give Davey two days of his sick leave at Tuesday's meeting.

"We need to take care of our people and be compassionate," Vitalo said.

He also said he wanted to show that the process can work and that "it's more than something just on paper."

"As a leader, you need to be a role model," he said.

The district's decision follows a recent change in Florida law that gives school districts the option to create a procedure for employees to donate sick time to non-family members.

District officials say many employees will benefit from the policy change. Many have asked for it in the past and have eagerly awaited it.

"That's great," School Board member Cynthia Moore said during a workshop in February.

There are some stipulations.

Whoever donates the sick leave must maintain a two-week balance in his or her own account. District employees are allotted 10 sick days a year, which they can roll over each year.

The recipient of the sick time must provide documentation from the treating physician of the illness, accident or injury. The person must have already exhausted all of his or her time first.

That's no problem for Davey.

His illness is well-known throughout Springstead and in the district office.

Davey says now he's just waiting for a new liver to become available.

It's a difficult, uncertain process. He's on call all day, every day. He might have to travel to Jacksonville at a moment's notice for the transplant surgery. He can't stray too far for fear he'll miss the call.

The new policy doesn't change that.

But it will help him once he finally gets the call.

"The blessing is I have a number of people who want to donate and have been waiting to donate," Davey said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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