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Monday, May 3, 2010

Martin County teacher leave policy may help other families in need

By Lisa Bolivar  Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.

PALM CITY — Six months ago, Robert Gangi of Palm City lay in a coma after hitting his head on pavement while skateboarding during a Christmas visit to this family in North Carolina. Today, he is walking and talking, giving hope he will be able to return to Florida in the near future.
Now at his parents’ home in Morganton, N.C., after being released from a rehabilitation hospital where he underwent physical, occupational and speech therapy, he has dropped all therapy except speech, said his brother, Rick Gangi, who lives in New Jersey.
“I would say the speech is going to take awhile because he has aphasia, and that takes awhile to work through so the brain can reconnect objects with words again,” Rick Gangi said.
Through the ordeal, Robert Gangi’s wife, Karen, who teaches at Palm City Elementary, has tried to remain by his side, but afraid of losing her job and the only health insurance the family has, she was forced to return April 12 after exhausting her sick leave. Colleagues have tried to come to her rescue by offering to donate their leave time so she can return to her husband.
In response, the Martin County School Board voted April 20 to consider creating a new policy that, if approved, would allow employees to donate accumulated sick leave to co-workers with a spouse or family member experiencing a catastrophic illness or injury.
While the School Board approved the policy in a 4-to-1 vote with board member Laurie Gaylord dissenting, the board has asked the language in the policy be reviewed and changed before the final vote sometime in the future.
Either way, since Robert Gangi is improving and school will soon be over for the summer, freeing Karen to return to North Carolina, the leave bank may be created too late to benefit her. Still, said Rick Gangi, creating the policy is a good thing.
“You know what, if Rob’s case helped other teachers down the line by giving other educators an option to help their co-workers if they are ever in need, I think it’s a good mark that they (Rob and Karen Gangi) left,” he said.
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