Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cambridge Education Association president Dan Monahan speaks with the School Committee in 2018. The association has facilitated sick leave day donations for a Fletcher Maynard Academy teacher. (Photo: Ceilidh Yurenka)

A beloved Fletcher Maynard Academy kindergarten teacher struggling to overcome cancer won a special dispensation this month for donated days from the school district’s sick leave bank, and some want other faculty to be able to use the process as well.

Robin Harris, principal of Fletcher Maynard Academy, was one of many at a Nov. 19 meeting of the School Committee supporting a motion to establish a sick leave bank for Julia Hogan-Jackson, a longtime teacher at the academy who will soon exhaust all available sick leave.

“We are asking the School Committee to allow staff and faculty at FMA, and perhaps though the Cambridge Public Schools, to gift additional days to Julia,” Harris said.

As she spoke, more than 15 people stood to support her request.

“At Fletcher Maynard, we’re a family,” said Banke Oluwole, a third-grade teacher at FMA who attended college with Hogan-Jackson, adding that many more people wanted to be at the meeting in support but could not attend. “There are many people who want to donate sick days on Julia’s behalf – all we’re waiting for is your approval so we can start this process.”

All seven committee members voted to approve the motion.

An agreement between the School Committee and the Cambridge Education Association was signed Nov. 19, saying that on a one-time basis, a “voluntary donation sick leave bank” would be established for Hogan-Jackson, with members of the the association allowed to donate sick days to the bank within three weeks of the executed agreement.

The agreement states that it will not be used to establish a precedent under the collective bargaining agreement between the association and the School Committee.

But while many attendees were advocating for Hogan-Jackson, the issue of establishing a sick leave bank for individuals in need is a much bigger issue for the city, Harris said. She asked the committee and superintendent Kenneth Salim to consider establishing an ad hoc subcommittee to devise a policy that would be equitable for all members of the school system.

Many letters of support sent to the committee highlighted Hogan-Jackson, but asked that staff be allowed to donate additional sick bank time to those in need without restriction.

The current collective bargaining agreement provides employees with 15 days of sick leave per year, with unused days rolling over from year to year.

The committee now deposits 400 days of sick leave in a sick leave bank Sept. 1 – with any unused days as of the end of June deleted, and not rolling over into the next school year. Applicants must exhaust their personal sick leave before applying for days from the bank, with a maximum of 45 days per person per school year. Hogan-Jackson has gone back to the committee twice for days from the bank, but has reached the limit for days under without the special dispensation.