Times Herald-Record
February 07, 2005

Hearing set for Thursday on librarian's comp claim

By Ramsey Al-Rikabi

Liberty - Angela Page doesn't leave her home without a respirator. Her body can't handle gasoline fumes, car exhaust fumes, or perfumes or the chemicals in dryer sheets. She can't go back to her job as librarian at Liberty Middle School because, she claims, the mold growing there wrecked her immune system.

Since the school opened in 1991, there have been problems with leaks coming through the roof, windows and ventilation system. Page, now 48, started work as librarian in the school the year it opened, having transferred from the elementary school.

When the roof in the library leaked, Page says she cleaned up fallen ceiling tiles, ruined shelves and water-damaged books.

Mold was growing in those tiles and books, in the particle-board shelves and the carpets, and Page was breathing it in every day at work for more than 10 years.

The district tried fixing the leaks, but rain water and snow melt always found a new way in.

"It was the most erratic pattern ever known," said Brian Howard, Liberty superintendent from 1997 until 2002.

In a Sept. 10, 1997, Times Herald-Record article, then-Assistant Superintendent Anthony Pagnucco called the leaking "unpredictable."

The Facilities Planning Committee, a district advisory group, recently recommended that the district borrow $350,000 to fix once and for all the leakage problems the district now acknowledges were caused by poor planning and bad workmanship.

The district had air quality studies done in the library in May and August 2004, both of which show traces of potentially dangerous mold at levels the district said are safe.

"There was nothing that would incite anxiety or fear on my part" in the reports, said Superintendent Larry Clarke.

The district also cleaned the library in the spring of 2004, after Page collapsed there. District staff emptied the library, replaced the carpet with tile, cleaned the surfaces, replaced water-stained ceiling tiles and threw out any water-damaged books, Clarke said.

"Is the mold a concern? Of course it is," Clarke said. "That's why we didn't just jump on the roof and fix the leaks. That's why we responded when (Page) made her concerns known and indicated that it had been ongoing."

The district said it's received no other complaints from staff or students.

Neither Page nor the district would comment on the cause of her illness, citing an ongoing workers' compensation claim.

A workers' compensation judge said in a November decision that Page had a work-related injury, a hypersensitive reaction to "occupational presence of fungi."

The severity of her disability and the amount of compensation will be determined at a hearing Thursday.