Harford Co. teacher fighting cancer seeks donation of sick days

A Forest Lakes Elementary School music teacher, preparing to take an extended leave to undergo aggressive cancer treatment, petitioned the members of the Harford County Board of Education Monday to allow his fellow educators to donate their sick days so he could accumulate enough paid time off for treatment.

Dominic Selvi, who has taught at Forest Lakes for eight years, has been battling Stage IV rectal cancer since he was diagnosed last December.

He told board members that allowing staffers at his school and Southampton Middle School – where his wife previously taught – to donate their sick days "would possibly be the greatest and most helpful gift of all, and it would not cost HCPS a thing, not one red cent."

Selvi, 34, an Abingdon resident and Fallston High School graduate, according to his Facebook page, said he has been able to take time off for his current chemotherapy and radiation treatments through the Family and Medical Leave Act, but needs to accumulate several more weeks for when he undergoes surgery to remove his bowel next month.

Public school teachers can join the Sick Leave Bank, which is administered by the Harford County Education Association for those "who may encounter catastrophic or incapacitating illnesses and who have exhausted all of their allotted sick and personal business days," according to the sick leave bank rules and procedures.

Teachers can join only during the open enrollment period, which is from May 1 to May 31.

Family members of teachers are not eligible for the Sick Leave Bank, and Selvi told board members he had not joined – he has saved his sick time in order to take time off to attend doctor's appointments for his son who lives with autism.

Selvi said he is the sole provider for his family, as his wife stays home to care for their son, one of two children they have.

"Since my diagnosis I have been met with sacrifice, charity and kindness," he said. "So many people who have put themselves out by trying to give my family a leg up."

Selvi thanked Superintendent Robert Tomback for advancing him 12 days of sick leave he had not accrued yet.

Christine Medvetz, a media specialist at Forest Lakes, said nearly all teachers at the school had signed a petition indicating their willingness to donate time – some who did not have any sick time said they would be willing to be docked a day's pay "for such a worthy cause."

"Any cancer is devastating but Stage IV cancer is incurable and life changing. . . . knowing that he will have enough sick days to provide for his wife and his two children is one way we can help him recover and stay strong enough to fight this disease," Medvetz said.

Board members did not take action on Selvi's request during Monday's meeting, but they commended his colleagues for supporting him.

Board Member Robert Frisch told Selvi that "I can tell from what I have heard that you are an inspiration to your students, just as I know that the music teacher of my children was an inspiration."

Board Chairman Francis "Rick" Grambo said, after hearing about Selvi's challenges, and the successful efforts to save the life of C. Milton Wright High School basketball player Colleen Houck Monday, "I was going to talk about some of the challenges we face and assure you the board is working hard on meeting those challenges, but to be honest with you, my perspective has changed tonight."

Student musicians, vocalists honored

The two Harford County Public Schools students who were selected as All-Eastern musicians for the 2012-2013 school year – North Harford High School soprano 2 Laura Ebsworth and Fallston High School alto Allison Stokes – were honored by the school board members Monday.

The board also honored the 31 students who earned slots in the Maryland All-State Junior and Senior Bands and Choruses, and the All-State Senior Orchestra this year.

Documents provided for the meeting indicated more than 7,000 public and private secondary school students throughout Maryland audition for the bands, orchestras and choruses, which are supported by the Maryland Music Educators Association.

Common Core State Standards

State and local school officials, as well as two local principals, gave board members an update on Harford County's nearly two-year process of adopting Common Core State Standards.

School systems across the country are adopting CCSS; the Maryland State Board of Education voted in 2010 to adopt the standards, and they will be implemented statewide during the 2013-2014 school year.

"The writers, the researchers pride themselves on the fact that the standards are clearer," said Judy Jenkins, director of curriculum for the Maryland State Department of Education.

The CCSS is designed to ensure students are "college and career-ready" in reading, English, language arts and mathematics.

Tammy Bosley, principal of Forest Hill Elementary School, said teachers and staff at her school spent a year in professional development learning how best to implement CCSS in the school.

She said the implementation is based around the concept of "rigor."

"What it really comes down to is teacher-student behaviors you see in a classroom," Bosley explained.

Tony Bess, principal of Havre de Grace Middle School, said teachers and staff at his school have been working with colleagues at Aberdeen Middle School and working to "bring parents into the loop" as they prepare to implement Common Core.

School board Member Robert Frisch expressed concerns the instruction could be "a mile wide and an inch deep," and said he has seen students at the high school level without basic knowledge of concepts such as the names of states.

"We have seen these issues in education, and the pendulum swinging from one side to the other," he said.

The presenters responded, saying that students will be required to "be fluent" in basic concepts such as their multiplication tables.

School board Chairman Francis "Rick" Grambo said he is concerned that both under and over-achieving students could be left behind by Common Core.

"The reality will be, there are going to be kids that won't meet that [standard]," he said. "How are we going to address that?"

Susan Brown, coordinator of intervention for Harford County Public Schools, said local schools are already set up to serve under and over-achieving students.

"It should be a natural transition when we move to Common Core," she said.

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