Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco school district grants teacher with inoperable cancer paid time off to stay home

Connie Duffy has inoperable cancer. After her sick leave request was denied, she kept going to work at Bayonet Point Middle and would catch naps in the faculty lounge.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Connie Duffy has inoperable cancer. After her sick leave request was denied, she kept going to work at Bayonet Point Middle and would catch naps in the faculty lounge.

BAYONET POINT — Teacher Connie Duffy left her classroom last week and realized she couldn't come back.

Her body, weakened in its battle with inoperable cancer, just couldn't work another day. So she went home to rest.

On Wednesday, she learned she can afford to stay there.

A staff committee that administers the school district's sick leave bank awarded Duffy enough paid time off to get her through the rest of the school year, reversing an earlier, controversial decision to deny her request.

Duffy, a 26-year veteran social studies teacher at Bayonet Point Middle School, said that this time her oncologist used the word "catastrophic" in the medical documentation and also wrote that she "is not able to work."

When it denied her request last month, the committee had said that her application contained no specific course of treatment and had only a general statement from her doctor.

Duffy said Wednesday she was relieved, though she said that even if she'd been denied again, she could not have gone back to work.

"I just couldn't punish my body anymore," she said.

Duffy, who lives alone, had used up all of her sick days this school year fighting the Stage 4 endometrial cancer. She is applying for Social Security disability but could not afford to go without a paycheck in the meantime.

So she leaned on the sick leave bank, a pool of days that employees contribute for their colleagues to use.

When that did not pan out, Duffy kept dragging herself to class every weekday, catching naps on the faculty lounge couch during breaks.

Her dilemma, reported in the Pasco Times earlier this month, outraged colleagues and readers.

School district officials have said that state law, district policies and contracts tied their hands when it came to Duffy's case. The only group authorized to release additional sick days from the bank is the committee made up of teachers who contribute to it.

Duffy and some other teachers have said the committee does not make clear what exactly it needs to make a decision.

Her colleagues and a former student at Bayonet Point Middle School have set up a couple of fundraisers for early next month to help her with health expenses. An account has also been set up at Republic Bank.

"She's just an inspiration to all of us," said principal Mike Asbell. "My hope as principal is that we as a school are able to really help her."

On Wednesday, Duffy said she finally realized how much rest her body needed. She has just started a new round of chemotherapy.

But knowing her body needed the rest did not make leaving the school where she'd worked nearly three decades any easier.

"It was a very hard decision because it meant the end of my teaching career," she said. "It's not the way I wanted to go out."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Fast facts

Want to help?

Two fundraisers for Connie Duffy are scheduled for May 2 and 3.

• The May 2 event, which will feature silent auctions, live music and a dunk-the-principals booth, runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kuryliw Chiropractic Rehab Center, 11004 Little Road, New Port Richey. That event has been organized by Derek Kuryliw, 26, a former student.

• On May 3, a benefit concert is being held at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students. The event includes a talent show featuring school district employees and a concert by the original Knight Sounds band, which is made up of teachers.

There is also an account in Duffy's name at Republic Bank branches.

Pasco school district grants teacher with inoperable cancer paid time off to stay home 04/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 8:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deputies: Wimauma teacher's aide sexually molested teen, 13

    Crime

    A Wimauma teacher's aide faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl.

    Sonny Juarez, 29, a teacher's aide in Wimauma, faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl on several occasions while working at the RCMA Wimauma Academy, 18236 U.S. 301 S, between November 2016 and March 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]

  2. Tampa Bay deputies head to UF to assist with Richard Spencer's speech

    Public Safety

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Thursday.

    Law enforcement is stepped up in Gainesville on Oct. 18, 2017, ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

    Olympics

    Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

    U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. [Associated Press]
  4. Top 5 at Noon: Facts on Richard Spencer's Florida visit; Column: Jameis, don't be a hero; Locale Market changes again

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida. [Getty]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Uncertainty surrounds Jameis Winston's health

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about the Bucs' quarterback situation, with uncertainty around Jameis Winston's health, in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Jameis Winston takes the field for warmups before the Bucs' game against the Cardinals Sunday in Glandale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]