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Teachers donate leave days to help Charlotte teacher battling cancer

Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 11:15 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Teachers are donating leave days to help a Charlotte teacher who is battling cancer.

As some teachers and employees want to return to the classroom, some say they can’t. Jodi Felton is a CMS teacher battling cancer - again. She says her immune system is too fragile to take any chances.

Felton has already beat breast cancer. Now she is battling leukemia and she says she’s also battling her job.

In an awesome twist to this story, she says other CMS teachers refuse to let her fight alone.

As a breast cancer survivor who is now fighting leukemia, Felton’s immune system is almost non-existent.

“I was approved for the high risk medical accommodation to work remotely from home. And that’s what I have been doing since August,” Felton said.

She says the district’s human resources department gave her the green light to work from home because of COVID-19, and extended that work-from-home approval into the spring.

Only, she says the district also said each school can make its own decisions.

Felton says she was left her with three options after her principal told her that he could not honor her accommodation.

Report to teach in-person, take leave or resign from her teaching job.

WBTV reached out to CMS communications Tuesday evening just before the school board meeting with questions on how they would handle a situation like Felton’s.

CMS told us they would be happy to respond to our requests and work on answering our questions as quickly as possible. However, CMS communications representatives noted due to the timing of Tuesday’s board meeting, their responses might take longer than usual.

UPDATE: Since the original publishing and airing of this story, WBTV has since received a response from CMS:

“In order to receive shared leave, it must be used for an approved medical reason, and the employee has to complete the application. If the employee is not able to complete the application, someone can complete on the behalf of an employee. The employee can receive no more the 20 days of sick leave per year, and they can also receive annual leave. The maximum amount of sick days that an employee can donate, if they are not an immediate family member, is 5 days per year.

Workplace accommodations matters are handled by HR, and principals do not have discretionary authority to disallow an accommodation that has been established. Principals do provide feedback regarding staffing at their school sites. CMS is not always able to accommodate teachers who are seeking to work remotely based on a number of reasons that typically include staffing levels and student enrollment at the site level.” - CMS Communications

Felton said she already ruled out going back in-person and she doesn’t want to resign. Leaving her with one option - to take leave. She had 18 total days.

She says if you don’t have enough hours for paid time off, then any leave you take would be unpaid. She knew with cancer she didn’t want go back into the classroom, so she turned to Facebook.

Fellow CMS teachers donated their leave days to other employees. People like teacher Erlene Lyde.

“I’m gonna give her as many as I can,” Lyde said.

Felton needs 85 days in order to cover her own paid leave and help her health insurance.

Lyde is just one of dozens of teachers who donated to Jodi Felton.

“My message to them in each personal message has been, I will never be able to fully give you the words to express my gratitude for that gift of time,” Felton said.

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