News 12 First at Five/ Monday, Aug. 19, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Terry Pitts teaches science at Glenn Hills High School, and he's also a veteran.
"I started 29 years ago, joining the Navy after graduating from what used to be Augusta College," he told News 12.
During grad school, he joined the Army National Guard, and later, the Reserves.
"In 2008, I was involuntarily what we call cross-leveled," he said.
Pitts left the classroom and headed to Iraq for a year. News 12 was there on his last day with students as he prepared to head overseas. The tour was his first of several.
"Iraq essentially for a year, Fort Gordon for a year, and then Europe in support of the Afghanistan war for two years," Pitts said.
While Pitts was away, he realized there was a problem. He says the school bookkeeper told payroll he had quit his job.
"Well, it's pretty frustrating to learn that I've supposedly abandoned my job," Pitts said.
The four separate deployments took him out of the classroom, but he believes the district owes him for part of that time.
"In 2008, just a few months after I left on military leave, they passed or adopted a new policy," he told News 12.
The BOE's policy says employees are entitled to leave not exceeding 30 days in one year if ordered to duty by cause of emergency from governor or appropriate officials of the United States Armed Forces.
"We recall of course 9/11 and George Bush declared an emergency. That declaration of an emergency was extend by President Obama and still exists today," he said.
While the money matters, Pitt says correcting a multi-year mistake is more important and that's why he's taking action.
"Asking the Department of Justice to initiate an investigation and see if my claim has merit," he said.
Pitts points out acts like USSERRA or the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act support his claims, but the major proof is the policy Richmond County Schools has on its website. He says it backs up his claims. He says after five years, he just wants what's right -- a real grievance hearing and hopefully back pay to the tune of $52,000. News 12 reached out to the school superintendent about this, and his assistant called back to say this is a personal matter and that they won't address it at this time.