Tuesday, January 11, 2005

JUST ANOTHER PIG AT THE TROUGH

The purpose of sick leave is to allow employees to tend to health issues, without experiencing a drop in income during necessary absences. It is expected that most employees will be returning to work at the end of their illness. Sadly, some employees cannot return; their health does not permit them to take up their duties again. In most of those cases, the only reason for their extended absence was a reluctance to accept that their teaching days were over. On rare occasions, a teacher might abuse sick leave. A few teachers, for example, were known to be planning to retire, but wanted to get the most out of their unused leave days. Hence, their classes were covered by subs, but, in fact, that teacher would not be returning. Most teachers tried to avoid that situation, since it places a hardship on the school, the students, and the system.

Sick leave, therefore, is not intended to provide a cushy income for employees in that period between working and retirement.

Now, what has former Cleveland Teachers Union president Richard Decolibus done?

The former science teacher and longtime union president said he doesn't plan to return to the classroom. He will probably stay on medical leave through the end of the school year, though.


Let me be clear. He has a doctor's note verifying a medical excuse.

However, I'm not impressed. By middle age, most people have 1 or more chronic medical conditions. A sympathetic doctor could interpret those as a legitimate reason to be off. The real question is: Would that condition keep a teacher from the classroom, if he or she wanted to teach?

Day after day, teachers walk into their classrooms, not feeling all that well. The reasons vary:
  • Perhaps they've caught the latest bug kids are passing around (a common occupational risk)
  • Short-term conditions, such as broken bones, back out of wack, or pregnancy
  • Chronic illness, such as diabetes, asthma, or arthritis
  • Life-threatening illness, such as heart attack, stroke, AIDS, or kidney failure


Some of the above conditions force a teacher to take medical leave, even retire after a time. But in these cases, returning was always the intent.

By his own admission,
The former science teacher and longtime union president said he doesn't plan to return to the classroom. He will probably stay on medical leave through the end of the school year, though.


A cynic might surmise that the only thing keeping Mr. D from retiring is the recent increase in health care costs that affects retirees, not "working" teachers. I, however, am not a cynic.

I do, however, wonder what's keeping him on the payroll, at a significant cost (about $73,000 a year, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer). For that money, two teachers could be called back from their layoffs.

Would you care to explain that to two teachers on layoff, Mr. D?

There is a huge difference between what's legal, and what's right. That's probably the most important thing teachers teach, right after subject matter. We try to get students to understand about doing the right thing, even when it costs you. That's what builds character.

Do the right thing, Mr. D. Put in your retirement papers, today.