Nicol did not accept his recommendation, because he was sympathetic to Klesczewski’s situation and didn’t want to press the issue, Greenleaf said. However, he also testified that he knew Klesczewski was having technical difficulties with distance learning during her first days of the school year, and saw her leave request as a “convenient way to avoid further difficulties.” His belief that the request may not have been directly tied to Klesczewski’s asthma stemmed from his analysis of her previous use of sick days and other forms of leave, Greenleaf said.
Under questioning from the school administration’s lawyer Frederick Dorsey, Greenleaf testified that he recommended denying Klesczewski’s request for leave last September until she provided more documentation. School Superintendent Scott Nicol approved that leave, but is now trying to terminate Klesczewski after she refused to return to work when required in March.
He said he was concerned about setting a precedent by approving a teacher’s leave request without the proper documents. Klesczewski, 51, of Suffield, suffers from severe asthma, and was granted extended leave last September under the Family and Medical Leave Act as recommended by her doctor, who warned she had a significant risk of dying if she contracted the coronavirus.
Greenleaf said he recommended ordering her to return to work or take disciplinary action. In a latter dated March 15, Nicol informed Klesczewski that she would have to return by March 15, resign, or he would seek her termination. When it came time for Klesczewski’s lawyer, Andrew Houlding, to question Greenleaf, he asked if anyone had ever talked to Klesczewski about the accusation that she was misusing sick days. At the end of February, Klesczewski asked to extend her leave further so she could get her vaccine and then return to teaching for the 2021-22 school year.
Of the sick days she took, 53% were taken attached to a weekend or holiday, Greenleaf said. He said that showed a pattern of Klesczewski using sick days in place of other types of leave. According to Greenleaf, Klesczewski has taken an average of nine sick days each year during her career, while other teachers took four, leading her to have fewer accrued sick days than expected for a teacher of 20 years.
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