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Cleaning Up Hanover Schools

April 9, 2013 | 6 Comments

Living in Hanover has grown so large that I have needed to go out and hire a team of correspondents to update people on the latest news.

Either that or I have been really busy with play practice so my wife – who is just as interested in these things as I am – provided the report below on last night’s Hanover school board meeting. She couldn’t stay for the whole thing because of her work for Mom’s Taxi Service Co. Inc. LLC, but got the meat of an important issue. The hour-long meeting covered a few topics, but did not get into overall budget issues. The solicitor is not named because he did not identify himself when he spoke at the meeting. I’ll add my comments after.

It was standing room only at the Hanover school board planning meeting Wednesday as the board solicitor addressed the topic of outsourcing custodial services for the district. The solicitor said outsourcing the custodians would save the district $220,000 in the 2013-14 school year. He was quick to point out, “No decision has been made by the board.” He cited the rising costs of health care and increasing employer contributions to the retirement system as the driving factors behind the decision to investigate contracting janitorial services. He said the action is not a reflection on the quality or quantity of work by employees, but a cost saving measure.

Joe Mahone, head custodian at Washington Elementary, read a prepared statement to the board and suggested the loss of these jobs would be detrimental to the district and the local economy. Mahone said employees were willing to accept a pay freeze and pay more for benefits. The solicitor said the district is still in talks with the union, as there are two years left in their collective bargaining agreement. He also said the loss of jobs was “not our intention,” and that the contractor would offer jobs to current employees, although they may see cuts to pay and benefits.

The board approved the advertisement of several anticipated positions: student achievement/intervention specialists (two positions), elementary teachers, art teacher, special education teacher and social studies teacher.

The board also discussed the need for a “supplemental position of public relations” to improve the district’s PR in the community and promote student achievement. This would be a stipend position for a current employee who would be expected to provide four or five articles per month to the newspaper.
  • I’m glad to hear a dollar figure on the custodial issue. I waffle back and forth on this whole thing. I can understand the board’s interest in saving close to a quarter of a million dollars, but I always wonder if there are unintended consequences that don’t show up in contract negotiations. And as a parent who often can’t get to pick up their child at the exact time an event ends at school, I like knowing that the people in the building during her wait time are district employees who are sometimes also parents of students in the district. It stinks that the custodial staff will have to take a financial hit, whether they renegotiate their deal or they end up working for someone else who contracts with the district (and almost certainly does not offer the same kind of benefits and security). I prefer that they work out a deal which will save money long-term, but keep them as district employees, but hope that can save the district a significant amount of money.
  • What the hell is a “student achievement/intervention specialist” and why do we need two of them. Maybe this was explained after my wife left, but it sounds like these are full-time PSSA/Keystone exam monitors. Isn’t that what Dr. Pam Smith is supposed to be focused on?
  • At least it seems like they are filling the vacant art position due to Sara Little taking the retirement package. I worried they would spread other employees thin to keep from filling that. The music and drama programs have had lots of parental support so I wouldn’t want art to fall by the wayside without a similar affinity group making waves.
  • Do not get me started on the whole PR thing. Save the money and handle it yourself or, better yet, write me a check, and I’ll come in to tell you to be more up front about things, worry less about whether people follow “chain of command” and include employees and parents in discussions before before rumors get out of control. The best public relations efforts come from leaders who simply equip their constituents with information without an agenda attached, not from stories in a newspaper. The employees should be developing life-long connections with students and parents, not pitching The Evening Sun.

6 people are talking about “Cleaning Up Hanover Schools

  1. I was able to stay for the whole meeting, which lasted an hour. I expected it to last longer, but they didn’t talk about the budget.

  2. Also, when a parent questioned the board about advertising those positions, Mrs. Lingg would not elaborate, but only said two positions were new.

  3. Thanks for the update. I would then add in my PR seminar that if someone asks you about something you are planning to advertise, you answer the stinking question lest you look like you don’t trust people with information YOU’RE GOING TO RELEASE PUBLICLY ANYWAY!

  4. Thanks for the info, Brian. I had planned to attend last night, but went to the urgent care clinic with a streppy eight-year-old instead.

    I, too, am torn on the custodian issue, but even the THOUGHT of adding additional positions, especially for PR and PSSAs before seeing that the elementary schools are properly attended sets my blood BOILING! We had some issues in the school this year that I don’t think would have been allowed to get to such a serious level (and believe me, they were serious!) had there been consistent and continuous supervision in the building. I’ve said it over and over, and I know I’m preaching to the choir, but of they can’t have three principals, they need to have one, and vice/assistant principal or dean, or whatever you want to call them in each.

    It is utterly appalling that they are even talking about paying someone to do PR. Isn’t Al Moyer the “face” of the district? Should HE be sending press releases? I agree that the district needs better PR, but maybe they could get it by stepping up and doing the right thing.

    The reality is that we are in a major budget crunch and we have to think about every cent we spend, but instead of hacking the budget and killing HPSD in the process, it needs to be pruned in a way that will allow the district to grow.

  5. Your last bulleted point is well stated. PR is important, but is the responsibility of everyone in the any district, and certainly administrators. To fund that position while cutting other extra-curricular positions that directly deal with students would set the wrong priority.

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