SUWANEE -- The bereaved family of a man employed as a teacher with Gwinnett County Public Schools addressed the board of education Thursday during its regular meeting.
Speaking on behalf of his family, David Johnson updated education officials on the situation concerning his sister, the late Hannah Rinehart. Hannah, who is the wife of South Gwinnett High School math teacher Mark Rinehart, died Sept. 5 after battling a rare bacterial infection, which she had contracted months earlier.
During her illness, Mark Rinehart's co-workers offered to donate their sick and vacation time so that he could take care of his ailing wife, but a spokesperson with the district said it just wasn't possible.
On Thursday night, Johnson said the family was still not satisfied by that answer.
"I'm curious," he asked the group of leaders, "has the board considered making a change to that policy?"
Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the current benefits policies of the district are "fair and competitive ... we believe it is adequate as well."
Added Wilbanks: "The system we have now is fair, but more importantly, it's fair to all 22,000 employees of the district."
Chairman Louise Radloff chimed in that the board has not yet had a formal discussion of the matter, but "at the present time ... we have to be fair to all people."
Johnson responded that teachers have contacted him, saying they'd like for the policy to be changed.
Following the Thursday meeting, Johnson said he had plans to take the matter to state legislators if GCPS leaders won't budge.
A spokesperson with GCPS has said that human resources did offer Mark Rinehart other options, but he declined.
Hannah Rinehart 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.
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.