Back-to-school time is here, but not for Hesper Franklin, 54, a former staff member at PS 198 in Brooklyn who lost her job for “claiming she hurt her foot during a February 2009 Trinidad vacation and would have to extend her stay with sick days.” A New York City Department of Education investigation found that Franklin had pre-planned to use sick days as part of her vacation, since she’d booked a round-trip ticket including those days in advance. Sneaky, sure, and foolish, even. But is misusing sick days something teachers and staff should be fired over?
An article in The New York Daily News says a dozen-or-so education department employees have been caught in the last two years “faking illnesses to take paid vacations.” One couple went to Italy, another to Aruba, and a school cook used seven sick days to take her kids on a cruise. So how did most of the offenders get caught? By posting vacation photos online.
It’s not so much that taking sick days for personal use is a thoroughly corrupt endeavor. In fact, Laurie Windsor, president of the parents council in southwestern Brooklyn told the News, “One day off here or there to deal with personal business, everyone understands that. But when you’re taking off for pleasure, I think parents get very offended about that.”
What’s more worrisome is that educators pretending to be sick don’t know better than to not return from a week of “resting a bad back” with braided hair, a fresh tan and a new Facebook photo album. When you’re “sick,” lay low! Even kids know to Tweet, “cough, cough” when they’re playing hooky at the mall.
But seriously, the real sources of corruption here are the doctors that in every instance handed sick day policy violators a note with an excuse to miss work. The Daily News notes, “Aside from summers off and school vacations, teachers and paraprofessionals are entitled to 10 sick days per year. They can convert three sick days into personal days, but must get permission.” It does seem a little inappropriate for anyone in the field of education to be taking vacation days during the school year when they have so many vacation days built-in to their work schedule. It’s an insult to those who work Monday-Friday, 9-5 (or 8-6), 50 weeks a year.
I understand that certain travel opportunities are only available at specific times, that someone might want to attend a destination wedding in the middle of the school year, etc. But it seems that three personal days should be enough to cover instances like that. I mean, save the sick days for hangovers, right?