Blackstone Valley Tech Superintendent Intentionally Prevented AP Biology Teacher With ALS From Teaching Final 103 Days So He Couldn’t Collect Life Insurance, Retirement, And Health Insurance
Milford Patch Letter to the Editor: On Aug. 15, 2016, my father Dr. Philip LeMarbre was diagnosed with ALS. While facing this devastating diagnosis, he took sick leave from his teaching position at Blackstone Valley Tech, where he taught for nine years and 75 days. He was a loved and respected faculty member who taught AP Biology. In December, he was notified that he was 116 days short of retirement, and that as of Dec. 7 would run out of sick time and would not be eligible for his life insurance, retirement or health insurance.
He petitioned the school committee for more sick time. The two BVT teachers voted yes, but the two school committee members voted no. The tie vote resulted in his petition being declined. The reason cited by the administration for voting “no” was “BVT had spent too much money on the science department that year.”
Today we received a letter that my father will be officially terminated from his position at the end of the school year for “failure to comply with the requests from the school.” The request from the school was a 45 page document that needed the signature of an occupational therapist. His occupational therapist would not sign it, as her job is to evaluate people, not programs, which the document was.
My father e-mailed the principal, explaining the issue, and has yet to hear back. The superintendent has declined having face to face meetings with my father, to find a solution to get him to retirement. They did offer a payout of $20K, which does not even cover the cost of the increased health insurance. My dad declined and sought legal help.
It turns out, the administration at BVT has not broken the law – in fact, they have followed it to the letter. And therein is the problem. The teachers have no protection if the administration is allowed to cut off support to teachers based on a four-person vote, where the “majority” is two.
The lack of compassion the administration has for a staff member that is well loved by both the teachers and students is astonishing. Our goal with this letter is to bring attention to this “loophole” and try to change the way days in the sick bank work. No one else facing a terminal diagnosis should have this added stress thrown on them. We would like to specifically thank the teachers and students (both current and alumni) of BVT for the tremendous support they have shown our family. Through this difficult time, the support they have shown has made such a difference for my Dad.
Thank you, #PhilsArmy
So this is obviously pretty one sided since the school department can’t comment. But the fact of the matter is that it’s completely avoidable on the part of the school district, and it’s just insanely bad press on their part. The dude wasn’t just some chump teacher. He taught AP. He was well respected with the kids. He was a valuable asset to the school. And then when he got sick the first thing the school district did was try to separate themselves from him while giving him the least amount of money possible.
The only thing that matters was that Dr. LeMarbre was feeling better in December and wanted to go back to teaching. But the district made him get a note from a neurologist and an occupational therapist to say he would be safe in front of kids, knowing that this would be impossible. And since this is not what neurologists or occupational therapists do, they couldn’t in good faith sign it. They never should’ve been asked in the first place, but had they done so this guy could’ve returned to his job, taught the final 103 days, and retired with his benefits. He didn’t want to receive the benefits out of sympathy or compassion. He wanted to earn them by teaching his final year of AP Biology. And the school would not let him.
I don’t need to know any more details than that. He could walk. He could talk. He wanted to do his job. He is immediately a million times better than my AP Biology teacher who literally did nothing except play his guitar and let kids walk all over him. He’s not teaching the slugrakes who he needs to be on his toes for. He’s teaching the best of the best who want to be there, and can attentively take notes during a lecture about mitosis from a guy who is sitting in a wheelchair. There’s absolutely ZERO reason the school couldn’t let the guy do his job except for the fact that they were trying to intentionally fuck him out of his own benefits.
And Superintendent Michael Fitzpatrick actually had the minerals to say this once the press started reporting on it:
“Unfortunate that they would communicate that to you in that fashion.”
Translation – it sucks that everyone’s gonna know what a chode I am now.
Because up until this point it was all ribbon cuttings, awards, and $200,000 a year salaries for Superintendent Fitzpatrick.
See? It’s fun getting awards from the governor. It’s fun doing the ice bucket challenge and pretending to care about ALS. It’s not so fun being exposed as the guy who tried to keep a teacher out of the classroom so he could intentionally bone him out of his benefits. Very unfortunate this became public.
Here’s how you can reach Michael Fitzpatrick to respectfully share your feelings with him:
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