Marion County approves shared sick days program inspired by teacher's cancer fight

Program allows school faculty to share sicks days with those in need

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

OCALA, Fla. - Marion County school board members approved a new policy that will allow workers to donate their sick days in rare occasions.

In the school board meeting, the sick leave policy passed 5-0.

"The Shared Sick Days Program" was spawned by a group of teachers and staff at Oakcrest Elementary School in Ocala. They wanted to help someone they cared for a lot -- first grade teacher Robby Strausser.

"The entire faculty came forward to help because at Oakcrest, we are a family, and everyone does pitch in for each other," said Principal Sharon Dudley.

She said many of the teachers and staff didn't wait for a new policy before they opened the floodgates of sick days for him.

"It makes so much more of a profound impact when someone says I want to donate you my time," said Strausser, who found himself battling advanced pancreatic cancer in the middle of last school year, and quickly ran out of sick days.

Thanks to his friends and co-workers, he didn't miss a paycheck -- or a treatment.

"It makes you want to pay it back ten fold," Strausser said. "To have the opportunity to do that means I have to beat this thing, and I will beat it."

He's doing so well, "Mr. Strausser" will be back in his classroom when school starts in Ocala on August 19. It's a homecoming his family at school has been waiting for.

"We're happy he's coming back," said Dudley. "He's a very positive young man. He was an asset to the school when he was here. The kids will be excited to see him."

The Marion County school board was careful with this new policy, so it's not abused. If a worker wants to have days donated, they need to fill out a 3-page form: one page filled out by the employee, one by their doctor and one by the school's principal. That way, no one looking for an extra day off will get by.

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