Teacher receives early holiday gift from fellow union members

When a teacher needed the help of the community as they faced an unexpected situation where personal sick days were not enough to cover an increasing need for absences, fellow members of the teachers’ union came to his rescue.

“Teachers in Dexter Schools are lucky to have a strong union, the Dexter Education Association,” the teacher, who asked that we not use his name, said. “They support teachers in a variety of ways such as advocating for our positions, securing reasonable salaries and benefits, and ensuring a safe working environment. When I unexpectedly needed to take a leave of absence, the DEA stepped forward and offered to help me by donating sick days. I did not request the days; they were an unsolicited gift. I am tremendously grateful for the compassionate generosity of my colleagues.”

However, this process of teachers donating their extra sick days to fellow teachers in need is not covered by the union contract, meaning it is not a process that is guaranteed or regulated by the school.

“The contracts are silent regarding loans of days from one employee to another,” Superintendent Chris Timmis said. “Occasionally, a situation arises where we need to look outside of contracts and do the right thing.”

DEA President Joe Romeo said he appreciates Timmis’ willingness to work with the union on this issue while he and other members of the union facilitate the process of aiding teachers in such situations.

Romeo said that once a need is brought to the table, DEA officials discuss the situation with the administration to determine how to help the individual. After this, they let the members of the DEA know—always anonymously to protect privacy— that there is someone in need.

When the help offered is in the form of a donation of days, Romeo said that he records the members volunteering to donate their extra sick days. After this, Romeo said that he checks with the superintendent’s office to make sure that the donors have enough sick days of their own.

Once this is done, Romeo arranges the list of donors by order of most sick days. He then takes one sick day from the teacher with the most days to give and then goes down the list in that order. This goes on until either he runs out of donors or enough days have been donated.

This process, however, is not a new one. There have been two such cases this year already along with numerous cases in years past.

“We have done this several times over the last dozen or so years,” Romeo said. “Although we have also experienced times lasting as long as five or six years when nobody has needed such help.”

All things considered, facilitating uncontracted aid is not an easy task, according to Romeo, and he is thankful for the extra administrative support as is the leadership of the DEA.

In a prepared statement, they wrote, “We appreciate the efforts of our superintendent to facilitate our members’ attempts to help other members who are experiencing unusual and unforeseen health difficulties. Also, the efforts of the district human resources department has been necessary for us to be able to provide the kind of help most needed in times that can feel overwhelming to someone experiencing a major unexpected health problem.”

And the DEA isn’t the only one giving thanks this time of year. The teacher who was aided is thankful as well.

He said, “Thanksgiving has extra meaning for me this year thanks to the wonderful staff of Dexter Schools, our DEA officers and Superintendent Timmis.”