Reed will retire from school district

Darrin Reed, who is battling leukemia, has retired from his job with the Laguna Beach Unified School District, he said Thursday by phone.

Reed, the former executive assistant to the superintendent, is leaving after 14 years with the district to keep his employer-sponsored medical insurance after he exhausted all eligible sick, vacation and medical leave days, said Ray Kawecki, Reed's partner.

His resignation is effective Friday.

School board president William Landsiedel made the announcement at Tuesday's board meeting.

"It's all OK right now," Reed, 47, said. "I can't perform my job, and I haven't been at work. [The district] needs to move on and this is the best thing for everybody."

Thursday marked the first time in 14 years that Reed missed the staff's welcome-back breakfast.

He and Kawecki drove to the City of Hope cancer center, as they do twice per week, for doctors to draw and test Reed's blood.

Insurance claims for all of Reed's medication, procedures and therapy since the leukemia diagnosis in late September have surpassed $2 million, Kawecki estimated.

"This was the only option for what we had, so to get [Reed's] retirement insurance, that was more important," Kawecki said. "He can't get a private policy because of a preexisting condition."

Reed has not worked since Sept. 25, when he went to the doctor because he had bruises on his body, Kawecki said.

A blood test indicated that Reed had acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer that starts from white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of the bones, where new blood cells are made), according to the American Cancer Society's website.

Leukemia cells usually invade the blood fairly quickly, the website said. They can then spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and, in males, the testicles.

Reed has endured chemotherapy and had his gall bladder removed. And on April 25, he had a bone marrow transplant, which switched his blood type from O to B, at the City of Hope in Los Angeles County.

Reed's body didn't take well to the chemotherapy and he spent six weeks in the hospital, Kawecki said.

Now Reed is doing better, Kawecki said. He is mobile and experimenting in the kitchen, according to a post on Reed's Caring Bridge web page, a site where people post messages of support.

"The low-bacteria diet and the restrictions on restaurant dining has not been difficult, and Darrin has been finding many new recipes to try," the July 19 post reads. "His nurses at City of Hope certainly enjoy when Darrin spends the weekend baking cakes or banana bread, bringing loaves with him on Monday mornings to share."

Laguna Beach Unified board member Theresa O'Hare worked with Reed for seven years and praised his work ethic.

"Darrin served under three superintendents, and contributed greatly to the smooth operation of the district and to the preparation of our board meetings," O'Hare wrote in an email. "I know all of us in the Laguna Beach schools [system] will miss Darrin, and I wish him the best."

Supt. Sherine Smith echoed O'Hare's comments.

"We will deeply miss Darrin," Smith wrote in an email. "He is part of the heart and soul of Laguna Beach Unified School District, and we have felt his absence in many ways this past year. He was a treasure to work with: warm, giving and enthusiastic.  We wish the very best health and happiness for him."

Reed said he enjoyed his time with the district and doesn't know what his next career move will be — he is focused on beating the leukemia.

"Sherine and I were buddies," Reed said. "I will miss the people I worked with and the people I served.

"I'm going to play it by ear and take it one day at a time. Who knows what the future holds? I appreciate each day."

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