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GCPS Board Hasn't Changed Sick Leave Policy

Gwinnett County Public School spokesperson says no decision has been made. Mark Rinehart of Snellville was to meet officials to discuss further options.

Update, Aug. 24, 2:20 p.m.: Sloan Roach, spokesperson for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said that, despite previous reports, no decision has been reached. 

Channel 2 Action News reported this week that Gwinnett County School Board will not change their leave policy for South Gwinnett math teacher Mark Rinehart. 

 from his fellow teachers in order to be with his wife, Hannah, while she recovers from a bacterial infection and multiple amputations. However, that is not allowed under school board policy.

What are your thoughts on this situation? Should the GCPPS board change its policy? Tell us in the comments below.

"We just can't do it for one person. We have requests frequently to do the type of thing that they have requested. But we have 22,000 employees," Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said to Channel 2 News. 

The family of Hannah was not aware of the decision until they heard it on Channel 2, David Johnson, Hannah's brother, told Snellville Patch.

"Every decision they have made so far," said Johnson, "we have had to learn from the press." 

Human Resources is trying to work with Mark to find a solution that will work for everyone. They will meet with Mark again today at 3:30.

If you would like to be involved in helping the Rineharts, leave a note in the comments and we can all work together to make a difference here.  

Multiple fundraisers are being planned, including one at Medlock Park on Oct. 6 sponsored by Operation Appreciation. Before that, on Sept. 29, Westminster Presbyterian Church will host a fundraiser and blood drive.

"Even with my civilian and military careers combined, I don’t make enough money to be able to afford the expenses to come," said Mark Rinehart in a statement on a website dedicated to Hannah. "Immediate needs are the practical ones which include the living expenses Hannah’s salary would have covered as well as medical deductibles for this year and next. More distant needs include prosthetics, renovations to our home, vehicle modifications, and anything else that may not be covered by my health insurance for Hannah.

"If I truly want to ensure that I am doing everything within my power to help Hannah, I need to ask for the assistance of others.  Please help me so that I, in turn, can help my wife.”

Patch will bring you more information soon on how to help and who is raising money for the family. 

D. Jackson August 26, 2012 at 09:08 AM
It is my understanding that the GCPS used to allow employees to donate their sick leave. I don't understand why they can't be flexible enough to reinstate that policy. I think that God would be pleased.
Sabrina Smith August 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM
"We just can't do it for one person. We have requests frequently to do the type of thing that they have requested. But we have 22,000 employees," Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said to Channel 2 News. The GCPS board DID make an exception to their policy and created a sick leave policy for one person: Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks. This is from a 12-6-10 AJC article: "In July, Wilbanks was paid for being healthy. He received $176.15 an hour for about a dozen unused sick days, adding up to $18,143. This month, he is eligible for another $28,360 payout for 20 unused vacation days. In addition, he received a retirement supplement of $42,000, a reimbursement for his contribution to his own retirement plan of $17,077 and a monthly expense allowance of $2,700 to cover transportation and business costs. And when his two-year contract was re-negotiated in 2009, the board agreed to allow Wilbanks to spend 10 days each year telecommuting. "I've never seen a more hard-working individual in charge of 22,500 employees," said Mary Kay Murphy, school board chair. "It is something that he requested and it seemed reasonable." Would Mary Kay Murphy please explain why she can make a reasonable accommodation for Superintendent Wilbanks but not for Mr. Rinehart? I will probably get an answer to that question when I get an explanation of how they determined that they receive $6 million in return for paying the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber employees.
Marie Mc August 26, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I don't believe it was ever a policy endorsed by the board. When my husband assed away 16 years ago, I was out of sick leave and some of my co-workers wanted to donate sick leave to me. My principal said it was not allowed, although I know of other schools where it was done.
Sabrina Smith August 26, 2012 at 11:53 AM
In the same AJC article, which reported that Superintendent Wilbanks’ perk is unusual among superintendents in metro Atlanta and unavailable to most teachers, at least until they retire, this was also included: Demming Bass, vice president of communications for the Gwinnett Chamber, said Wilbanks led the district as it won the Nobel equivalent for public schools this year, the Broad Prize for Urban Education, given to large systems that narrow the achievement gap. "Imagine that you were the owner of a business and had one of your best years in terms of performance, but because of the economy you don't get a raise; that doesn't mean you aren't worth every penny that you're given." How would the Gwinnett Chamber explain why Superintendent Wilbanks has received a pay increase over the last few years, while teachers have had their pay frozen? Are teachers not worth every penny they are given?
Jerry Fuchs August 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
My question is a simple one. Why can't Mr. Wilbanks' office review this request ? How many of these 22,000 employees have a crisis such as this arise, that demands special attention be paid? 1? 2? maybe 12? Maybe someone else would be better able to do this job, if it's such an overwhelming burden.
Doc August 26, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Clearly many are angry (maybe just at GCPS or maybe at government in general) and using this issue to vent but let's not resort to comparing different issues to argue what you want. I appreciate fellow employees wanting to donate to someone in need, but they are donating *sick days* for someone to use for *personal leave* time (the employee is not sick, his spouse is so him being gone would count for personal leave). This falls clearly outside of the parameters of policy on many levels AND I'm sure causes huge ripples in terms of how the pay, taxes, etc. are calculated. In your example of Wilbanks, you reference paying for his own unused sick leave. My understanding is that employees can be reimbursed at some level for unused sick leave (paying you for being healthy) within parameters he met (whether you think he deserved it or not). This is not the point up for debate with this issue. If the coworkers really want to help, why don't they set up a foundation and write a tax deductible check for a days wages so he can take the paid time off (like the rest of us would need to do) and still have income. I truly appreciate the need (more than you can know) and the desire of coworkers, but asking the school system to pay the very real cost of coworkers giving a "free" gift of hours is wrong. There are plenty of other ways to help that are reasonable. I wonder if anyone has asked what the school system HAS offered to do for the family?
DavidE August 26, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Have you seen what teachers are paid? They keep cutting every corner with the teachers and the superintendent gets raises and golden parachutes while still in his job? If he was up for re-election this year, they would have made a policy change.
Annette Rogers September 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM
The annual Salary of a Stellar Sub in Gwinnett County (full-time in a single school) is $15,683 a year. According to Sabrina's figures above, this is less than Wilbank's transportation allowance, less than the reimbursement for retirement plan, and less than Wilbank's 12 unused sick days? Is my math correct? Fair and sustainable? I think not.

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