Teacher Retains Job

Teacher Retains Job

School district changes stance on teacher undergoing cancer treatment.

A teacher who is being treated for Hodgkin’s disease and who was given the choice of resigning or being fired from the Loudoun school district will retain her job, an official said.

Patsy Layer, director of the Loudoun Education Association, said Tuesday that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edgar Hatrick has agreed to let Alison Yowell return to her seventh-grade English class once her treatment is finished. “It’s up in the air how many months she will be out,” Layer said. “She has two more rounds of treatment to go. It could be springtime … or it could be later. She is doing better.”

Layer said Yowell, who had used up all her sick days, was told to resign rather than tarnish her employment record. She had asked for leave without pay, but the school district’s policy prohibits the practice for any employee who has worked fewer than 90 days. The teacher also had not worked long enough to be eligible for the Donated Family Sick Leave Bank, which would have allowed other teachers to donate sick leave.

Yowell refused interviews Tuesday, saying she wanted to concentrate on getting better.

“I was able yesterday to work something out to the satisfaction of the teacher,” Layer said. “The superintendent has agreed we need a comprehensive review of the policies that deal with situations such as this. … We’ll be having discussions with the School Board and make some revisions to keep this from happening in the future.”

Wayde Bayrd, the school district’s spokesman, said he could not deny or confirm Layer’s information, because Yowell has not granted permission to discuss the matter publicly. “We have no confidentiality waiver, so we cannot comment,” he said.

YOWELL, 31, of Sterling, had been a teacher since 1996, working in California, Japan and Virginia. She went into remission early last year, but the cancer returned. A single woman, she moved to Northern Virginia to live near family.

Layer said Yowell was very upset about being forced to choose between resigning or being terminated. “I found it disturbing that one of our employees had to face that kind of decision simply because she was within her first 90 days in the school system,” Layer added.

Prior to Hatrick’s decision to allow her return, Bayrd defended the policy. “It is to make sure the teachers are in the classroom, and the taxpayers get what they are paying for,” he said. “It is not to punish anyone. It’s to make sure they don’t abuse the leave. You can use 13 days in the first 90 days”

Layer said she and Yowell are pleased that Hatrick is willing to work to remove the 90-day period on a permanent basis. Fairfax and Prince William counties allow the leave under those circumstances.

LEA, which serves as an advocate of school employees, will provide the School Board with proposed language for the policy change, Layer said.

School Board Chairman John Andrews had no comment on the issue.

Yowell submitted her resignation last week, effective Monday. Layer said teachers have expressed a desire to raise money to help Yowell during treatment. “Alison greatly appreciates the support she is receiving,” she said.

Bayrd said Yowell can continue to obtain full medical, prescription, dental and eye insurance through COBRA at a cost of $401.63 per month.