One Manhattan school worker was so determined to net another week of vacation in Costa Rica, she went to extreme lengths to get some extra rest and relaxation -- pretending that her daughter had died to get the extra time off.
Joan Barnett, a parent coordinator at the Manhattan High School of Hospitality Management, pretended that her daughter died over spring break in 2010, the NY Daily News reports (h/t The Jane Dough). Barnett, it seems, was so determined to spend two and a half weeks in the popular Central American tourist destination that she had one of her daughters call the school and lie about her sister having a heart attack, even providing a fake certificate of death as backup.
But when Barnett's ruse fell apart due to multiple inconsistencies, she ultimately lost her job.
Though Barnett's story may be shocking, she isn't the first person working in education who's tried to squeeze a little extra time off from administrators by lying about the death of a loved one. In August 2010, a school aide in the Bronx said her Mom had died to cover up for missing three days of work, the NY Post reports. An issue with the death certificate in that case also led to her ultimately being fired.
More recently, in Chicago, a recent investigation revealed that fraud and improper use of district money by public school employees led to a $1 million loss of funds. Some of the fraud included employees illegally collecting sick time and vacation benefits.
Even the Girl Scouts of the USA were tainted with scandal this year when a New York area finance director was found to have embezzled $310,000 worth of the nonprofit's funds. Like Barnett, she too had a taste for leisure, spending a significant portion of the stolen funds on a luxury cruise.
Given the amount of vacation allotted for teachers, it may be surprising that Barnett took the risk. Compared to a national average of just 14 days of vacation time a year, one of the perks of working in education is more time off from holidays, including summer break.
Even employees who have fewer vacation days don't usually end up using them all, let alone try to get extra. Most U.S. employees don't end up taking off their allotted two weeks, citing the financial costs of travel, according to a recent poll. In California, however, skipping vacation may be a savvy decision, as public sector employees can often cash in those days for pay instead of for time off.