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Colleagues' Gesture Keeps Ill Teacher on Staff

November 13, 1986|Associated Press

JENKS, Okla. — Employees in this town's six public schools have agreed to donate their sick leave days to a co-worker crippled by Lou Gehrig's disease to keep him on the payroll and able to support his family.

Darrell Gwartney, Jenks schools personnel director, said that the system's 750 employees will get a notice in their paycheck Friday allowing them to contribute annual and accrued sick leave days to Paul Huston, a teacher whose allotted sick leave has expired.

"I'm overwhelmed with their generosity," Huston, 40, said of the efforts of his co-workers. "If it had not been for that policy, I would be unemployed and unable to support a family."

Destroys Bodily Functions

The formal name of Huston's illness is amytrophic lateral sclerosis, a terminal illness that destroys motor functions of the body.

For the last five years, Huston, who is married and has two sons, has taught Earth science to eighth-graders at Central Middle School. Last year, unable to move his arms or legs, he was forced to teach in a wheelchair.

This year, his voice became too weak for him to teach. A respiratory infection has kept him at home, but he hopes to return to the school district to do volunteer work--tutoring, working in the special education department or consulting.

"The illness is a catastrophe," Gwartney said. "People felt a sense of passion for Paul. He's a good man."

He estimated that about 200 days would be donated and predicted that when Huston used up the donated days, the process would be repeated.

'Something in Return'

"The staff wanted to figure out a way we could help him so he would not lose his benefits," said Linda Owen, a nurse at Jenks East Middle School. "He is an excellent teacher. He was always real caring and giving about his students and the staff. We just wanted to give something in return."

The disease was named for the New York Yankee first baseman who contracted it and later died in 1941.

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