A dispute over sick leave for a London City Schools staff member spilled over into a school board meeting, where that person’s spouse accused the administration of bullying her for taking a personal trip during her leave time.
Wayne Williams, husband of Heather Williams, a 15-year district employee currently serving as an aide in a special needs classroom, spoke to the board Tuesday night over recent disciplinary action taken on her for what the school’s administration considered to be an abuse of medical leave.
According to Mr. Williams, earlier this year, his wife had requested some time off to take a break from her job, which was causing her considerable distress.
“She tells me no one else wants to be in that classroom, because of the situation it’s emotionally disturbing,” he said. “Even though she feels this way, she’s passionate about these kids and giving these kids an education.”
However, due to the proximity to the President’s Day holiday, she was unable to get the time off.
He said her supervisor said to take time off and she would just receive a verbal warning.
To alleviate her stress, she also sought medical help of a doctor, who recommending she get counseling and was put on a prescription.
The board approved her to be off from Feb. 8 to March 6, for medical leave, according to the minutes from the March 14 board meeting.
“So now the doctor writes her off for four weeks,” he said. “And that time-frame was the same time she wanted off to go to Disney World to see our niece in a band.”
Kramer was informed of the trip through a photograph of Mrs. Williams in Orlando, and took action.
After an afternoon hearing on March 16, she was given a five days suspension from work without pay.
Williams said his wife was given no restrictions for her medical leave.
“She wasn’t seeking employment, she wasn’t off roofing a house, she was off for emotional needs,” he said.
She was also given a gag order to not discuss her employment during the suspension with any district employees or officials, outside of union representatives.
She called school board member Ed Maynor to further dispute her suspension, directly against the terms.
No further action was taken against her, but she was formally reprimanded by the administration for her action and was told that further infractions would involve greater punishments.
Superintendent Lou Kramer declined comment, saying the medical considerations on what he deemed a personnel matter prevented him from speaking in detail, in order to avoid violating regulations on medical records by the federal HIPAA law.
He instead referred The Press to personnel documents regarding the situation, which are available upon request by the public.
According to the documents, Mrs. Williams had requested time off the day after President’s Day, Feb. 21, to go to Orlando as a personal vacation. She confirmed to administration she had requested the time off and had purchased plane tickets in 2016.
During hearings with administration, union reps and Kramer, she insisted her medical concerns and the personal leave request were unrelated.
Kramer wrote a letter to Williams saying he would reduce the suspension to three unpaid days should she agree to cease disputing the suspension.
None of the documents acquired by The Press indicate she accepted the offer.
Mr. Williams said they have contacted an attorney and said they may have grounds to take legal action.
“She feels she has a case here, but that’s not the route she wants to take,” he said.
Williams concluded by saying he was concerned for the future of the school.
“Listening to my wife, there’s many more teachers that have lots of concerns and are planning not coming back next year, it seems like it’s a sinking ship,” he said. “I want our school to do well. I’m a member. I live here. I go through our downtown and see the way it looks now… If we could rebuild our school system, but it’s not going that way.”
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.