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Supporters of ailing Snellville woman show up at BOE

Special Photo Hannah Rinehart and her husband of two years, Mark, a math teacher at South Gwinnett High School are seen here. Doctors believe Hannah contracted a rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva, which resulted in the amputation of her hands and feet.

Special Photo Hannah Rinehart and her husband of two years, Mark, a math teacher at South Gwinnett High School are seen here. Doctors believe Hannah contracted a rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva, which resulted in the amputation of her hands and feet.

SUWANEE -- Sporting royal blue T-shirts, nearly 50 friends and family members of an ailing Snellville woman arrived Thursday at a board of education meeting to show their support.

The T-shirt color was a nod to Hannah Rinehart's favorite hue.

In June, Rinehart was stricken with a bacterial infection that resulted in the quadruple amputation of her limbs.

Hannah's husband, Mark, a South Gwinnett High School teacher, has been taking care of his wife for several weeks now.

While Mark's co-workers at the high school have offered to help by donating their own sick and vacation time, district policy won't allow it.

District Spokesperson Sloan Roach said Thursday that human resources is offering Mark "several options that would allow him to continue his employment, including benefits and salary."

Added Roach: "We are doing all we can to work with Mr. Rinehart during this difficult time."

During Thursday's meeting, Hannah's father, Doug Johnson urged school leaders to consider the situation.

"It will take all of us working together as a team to give her a chance to recover," Johnson said. "I'm asking for the time and help and support that only you, as a board, can give. She will need every second of Mark's support."

Mark, who is working to support the family with one salary, has said that deductibles, insurance rates and other medical expenses continue to amass.

Mark was present at Thursday's board of education meeting but did not speak during the public comments portion of the gathering.

He told The Post that the show of support at the meeting was "hard to take in."

"It's never a good thing to be in a position like this," Mark said. "It's nothing you look forward to, but it's good to see that she is loved."

Hannah fell ill in late June after contracting a rare bacterial infection from dog saliva. By late July, the tissue in her hands and feet had deteriorated to the point that her extremities had to be amputated to save her life.

A patient care technician in DeKalb County, Hannah, 32, had successfully battled Hodgkin's lymphoma for years, and had advocated for cancer research at Relay For Life events.

Roach said that while the district acknowledges it's a "catastrophic situation ... this is not a simple change."

"As a school district we have on average 550 people on leave at any given time," Roach said. "Currently, we have 131 people on leave who are not receiving pay because they have used all of their available sick leave."

Added Roach: "In looking at this request, decisions must be made that are fair and sustainable for all 22,000 GCPS employees. That said, we will continue to do all we can do to work with Mr. Rinehart during this difficult time."

Comments

R 1 year, 8 months ago

BOE Just rescind the Gwinnett Chamber support . Mr Willbanks DONATE some of YOUR special contract time...

If you really believe the teaching staff has allowed you to maintain Gwinnett's record of success and that by no small means YOUR very own.

Please act like the CEO we believe you are.

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kevin 1 year, 8 months ago

And your Chairman Nash stated she want to continue the $500,000 donation to the Chamber. IF this isn't lobbying with our money, what is? Next time the school board is crying for money for the classroom, bring this to their attention. If only what hits the paper gets talked about, I can only imagine what other crooked things are going on behind the doors in Gwinnett County. Ask Nash. She ran on a platform of transparency!! Ha. what a joke she has turned out to be. An unopposed no less so we are stuff with another thief.

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ssilover1 1 year, 8 months ago

While you clearly may not agree with decisions the boards make, the decisions on supporting the Chamber are NOT crooked. They are very normal actions. For the good of the whole, the Chamber, the Board of Commissioners and Board of Ed must work together and do everything possible (and legal) to attract solid business to Gwinnett. Everyone wins.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

If it is all good, we would be happy to review the documents to substantiate the $6 million GCPS claims to have received. There is absolutely NOTHING to support that claim. The math doesn’t make sense even if they did have paperwork. Please find any businessman in Gwinnett, in Georgia, or anywhere in the country who will tell you that it is reasonable to hear a claim that 2 employees generated $800 million in economic activity. My question, once again: If GCPS was only interested in a return on investment to provide more money for schools, why didn't they buy a McDonalds franchise that has a proven track record and can easily provide financial statements to show the amount earned down to the penny? Why didn't GCPS require a contract? There is no list of deliverables outlining what the chamber was to provide. GCPS admitted they have never even asked for a cost benefit analysis. How can they claim with a straight face that they received $6 million? I would be happy if they showed us they broke even and got back the amount of money they spent on salaries.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

If you think this is normal, please give me the name of just one other school system in Georgia that pays salaries of employees at their Chamber of Commerce. If this is normal, why is the Financial Review Division of the Georgia Department of Education looking into this? Would you pay salaries for an outside organization with no contract, and no way to evaluate what you got in return? If it is normal for GCPS to make payments like this, we need to look into other areas of their budget. If this is normal, why did GCPS release a statement saying Wilbanks discussed this with the school board, they approved it, and asked for the benefits to be analyzed on an annual basis, but there are no minutes of any meeting where this discussed? Would you not expect minutes for a meeting where the school board made a decision to make multi-year payments of salaries to an outside organization that totals approximately $900,000 on a no-bid, no-contract basis? If the school board asked for an annual benefit analysis, why was that never done? If this is normal, please join our organization, as we are going to need more volunteers than ever to file open records requests and review documents.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

If Mary Kay Murphy was creative enough to figure out how to revise the policy for Superintendent Wilbanks, maybe she can be just as creative in revising the policy to help this teacher and his wife.

A 2010 article in the AJC detailed the unusual sick leave policy that Gwinnett’s school board created for Superintendent Wilbanks because he is hard-working: “That includes payments twice a year for unused leave time, a perk that's unusual among superintendents in metro Atlanta and unavailable to most teachers, at least until they retire. In July, Wilbanks was paid for being healthy. He received $176.15 an hour for about a dozen unused sick days, adding up to $18,143. This month, he is eligible for another $28,360 payout for 20 unused vacation days. In addition, he received a retirement supplement of $42,000, a reimbursement for his contribution to his own retirement plan of $17,077 and a monthly expense allowance of $2,700 to cover transportation and business costs. And when his two-year contract was re-negotiated in 2009, the board agreed to allow Wilbanks to spend 10 days each year telecommuting. "I've never seen a more hard-working individual in charge of 22,500 employees," said Mary Kay Murphy, school board chair. "It is something that he requested and it seemed reasonable."

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NewsReader 1 year, 8 months ago

Great detective work Sabrina!

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ssilover1 1 year, 8 months ago

And how is this not good? How in the world can you compensate someone who works 24/7. Should you deny someone what is rightfully theirs?

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

No one is suggesting that Wilbanks should not be paid. The issue is that if the school board can be creative with the superintendent's sick leave policy, they can work hard to try to find an equitable solution for this teacher. I know that it is not just a matter of saying yes, as there are other considerations, but they have already set a precedent by creating a sick leave policy for Wilbanks that is not offered to any other superintendent in the metro-Atlanta area, and probably not in Georgia.

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teelee 1 year, 8 months ago

If it is their time, let them use it as they see fit! The big dogs only change the rules when it affects them. I hope they can sleep at night! Good luck Hannah!

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entr0physt 1 year, 8 months ago

First, let's imagine what the schools could do with $170,380* worth of supplies. I'm certain those respective teachers are every bit as "hard-working", even if the individuals in their charge are merely hyper-energetic, shrieking, leaking. fighting, fidget-machines. They must be proud to have such an overtly dedicated superintendent. And yet, imagine how much might be accomplished in assisting one of their own, as they seem willing to do. "All we can do"... indeed. What an interesting interpretation.

(*) -------------- 18143 + 28360 + 42000 + 17077 + 64800 (2700 * 24, for 2 years of monthly stipend)

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kevin 1 year, 8 months ago

99% of government run systems only allow FMLA for this issue. Very few allow leave donations, including private business. This requires much more than simply a rule change. It is a major policy shift and the system must be able to handle this change within their software as well. This is costly to change. People usually enter government work for the leave benefits. If you do as some, use your leave as fast as you earn it, then you suffer when an emergency arises. Most public employees use up their sick leave as they go along so they will not have much to lose if they decide to leave the system. There is nothing wrong with letting employees use their annual leave for sick leave but not vice versa. This occurs ALL the time. Why do mention of doing that? Do they want their cake and eat it too?

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Linda 1 year, 8 months ago

The federal government allows federal employees (FTEs) to donate leave time to others, and some corporations due as well (I have worked for more than one). It hurts no one if someone chooses to give their time and actually would probably save the taxpayers money by not having to pay for unused sick time.

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JCJB 1 year, 8 months ago

Gwinnett Medical Center allows it's employees to donate sick time to other employees, Sorry, Kevin, I don't think its that big of a deal to implement.

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ssilover1 1 year, 8 months ago

GCPS allows a sick bank. They way it is run is fair to all. This is an extraordinary situation. When things like this happen it brings all of us to examine processes and procedures. I would hate to work in HR to make path that will suit this. When Sloan Roach said options were available to the husband, I believe her. The options may not be what is easiest (people donating days) but are probably a sincere effort to be equitable and sustainable for an entity with 22,000 employees. If it weren't for lawyers, the district could probably go on and grant it. But you know how lawyers are waiting in line to go to court with the abusers who created such a stringent policy/procedure. No good deed goes unpunished...

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