A one-year contract with the Van Buren Association of Educational Secretaries was ratified by the Board of Education during Monday’s regular meeting.
The VBAES membership ratified the contract on Aug. 2.
The contract includes a 20% contribution of health care, reduction in paid days (such as Inclement Weather/Act of God Days), elimination of three paid holidays (days before Christmas and New Year and Easter Monday), making a $200,000 savings for the district.
Trustee Sherry Frazier noted, “I’m appreciative of their cooperation in these very difficult times,” and the rest of the board agreed.
The board was poised to eliminate 13 secretaries and replace them with others furnished by an employment agency, for the same pay, but without benefits. But, the district and secretaries went back to the bargaining table and the secretaries agreed to concessions to help the district and save their jobs.
In other business at Monday’s almost three-hour meeting, the board:
• Approved a two-year contract with Edustaff, LLC to service substitute support staff, including secretaries, paraprofessionals, and coaches. The district formerly contracted with PCMI for the service, but this is expected to save the schools $10,000 per year. Director of Human Resources Shonta Langford-Green said the laid-off secretarial staff and current substitutes can convert to working for Edustaff;
• Discussed for more than an hour a proposal by Trustee Scott Russell to appoint an 11-member committee of community members to act as advisors in making cuts as part of the Deficit Elimination Plan. The idea was tabled so Russell can come back with a specific plan and guidelines. He said it would be a shame to miss “that one great idea” that could come. Russell said he had read about other districts having such a committee, but refused to name them. Toth said members of the community don’t know how bad things are, financially, and the board “is deciding between what’s ugly, disgustingly ugly, and filthy ugly” in making cuts;
• Directed School Supt. Tom Riutta to set up a town hall meeting in early to mid November for the public to discuss whatever they like. Russell had suggested four quarterly town halls, but conceded that might be too many;
• Approved cutting board of education member pay from $30 per meeting to $25 per meeting (17%), which should save the district $1,500 annually. The board cannot be paid more than $50 each per meeting and this is half, they pointed out. This will be in effect until the district has a balanced budget or the bylaws are revised. The pay cut required a suspension of the bylaws. Frazier and Russell supported cutting the pay to zero, but Board President Martha Toth said she puts in many, many hours in this position and gets paid only $1,200 a year. She said a small stipend “shows respect for my time”;
• Approved recalling from layoff Stephanie Karlinski to the position of secretary at Haggerty and recalled from layoff two BHS chemistry teachers, Chelsee Harris and William Spinks. Harris also will teach English;
• Heard laid-off secretary Deb Lazaroff accuse the board of inflating its administrative staff figures before making cuts. “You buried us and your group is still floating on top of the pool,” she said. When Frazier asked her to explain, Lazaroff said the board saved money by getting rid of Steve Hudock as a principal, knowing that was just a temporary position. Toth said the board hasn’t finished making cuts in the administration; and
• Was advised there would be no workshop on Aug. 15, but there will be a policy review meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 16. The Aug. 22 meeting agenda will include student handbooks, a recommendation for middle school principal, and a deficit reduction update. The Community Resource Center will hold a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting on Aug. 29. The former portable classrooms are being renovated with a grant from the VB Civic Fund and pro bono work by contractors.