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Public Pressure Forces Gloucester City School Board to Reconsider Dismissal of 2 Employees

Anne Forline | South Jersey Observer

GLOUCESTER CITY N.J. (May 13, 2016)--During the last two Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) meetings, there has been a large, public show of support for two staff members who were rumored to be losing their positions in the district.

The two staff members are a school nurse, Linda Stewart, and homeless liaison, Jackie Berg.

At the May 5 combined Budget Hearing and Caucus meeting, several colleagues and members of the public spoke to the Board of Education (BOE) to ask that Stewart’s job be saved.

While presenting the 2016-17 budget, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, Margaret McDonnell stated that the budget did not project staffing cuts other than some retirement vacancies. Later in the meeting, a teacher asked for further clarification about eliminated positions since McDonnell stated that there wouldn’t be any budget cuts.

In response,  Rafferty, said: “There are issues with positions that were retained out of the RIF [reduction in force] from last year that should have been done but was not done. The current budget is not where the RIF came from.”

An email was sent to McDonnell on May 11 asking if a vote had been taken to either retain or eliminate Stewart’s position and she responded that Stewart was included in the Board approved 2017 personnel listing.

During the regular BOE meeting on May 10, there was a large crowd in attendance to support Jackie Berg.

Berg received a Rice notice, which state law requires that public employees receive prior to any discussion of their job

Among those who spoke on Berg’s behalf were her husband, a  teachers’ union representative, and co-workers.

Berg directly addressed the school board and said she had a meeting with Rafferty and was told that her contract went through June 2016. After serving 20 years in the district as a homeless liaison, Berg wanted to know where this position was going to go and she stated that she wanted to continue her employment.

“In the past, staff jobs have been altered and changed, but their benefits and salary were never affected. I ask for the opportunity to continue in my job so I can continue to serve the community of Gloucester City,” Berg stated.

After she spoke, Berg received a standing ovation.

The BOE went into Executive Session and when it reconvened, several motions were voted on. One motion was to affirm the findings concerning two HIBs (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying). One incident was found not to be an HIB and the second incident was found to be an HIB.

The BOE also voted on three motions relating to Berg.

The first motion abolished the position of Health and Social Services Coordinator effective June 30, 2016. On the second motion, the BOE voted to establish the position of District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effectively July 1, 2016. On the third motion, the BOE voted to establish Jackie Berg in the position as District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effective July 1 at her current salary.

Following the vote, Berg thanked the BOE by saying: “I will continue to serve every day to the best of my ability: the students, the families and the children of the Gloucester City School District.”

Rafferty then stated that three names needed to be added to the list of staff renewals for 2016-17 and those names were Helen Whitcraft, Doug Ziegler, and Jackie Berg.

Rafferty also said that on May 10 [the day of the Board meeting], he received correspondence from Board Member, Patrick Hagan, who resigned his position as a Board member due to conflicts with college and his job. The Board voted to accept the resignation. Rafferty said that solicitor Frank Cavallo would be consulted as to advertising for the vacancy and about the process for selecting another candidate to fill the vacancy.

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked about a rumor that was going around that the district was hiring a Director of Security. She asked: “That is not the case?”

Rafferty responded: “I have no clue where that came from and I would like to know who said that so that I could clarify. I don’t know where some of these things come up. At no level, did anyone talk about that, approach that, or have a discussion on that.”

Regarding security in the district, Jackie Borger said that two part-time security guards (Timothy Flood and James McNamee) will be hired at $12.00 an hour.

On the BOE’s meeting agenda, George Berglund was hired at a salary of $32,050 to replace the security guard who resigned from Cold Springs School.

 Cohan also asked about the merit maximum of $15,750 for the superintendent’s salary that is listed as $157,500 on the meeting agenda.

Rafferty deferred to the Board solicitor, Frank Cavallo, who stated that the superintendent’s contract is capped. He said: “In the contract, there are merit goals that the Board approved. If the superintendent meets those goals, the Board will send that information back to the county, who will approve that he has met those goals. If so, there is a percentage of his salary that is attached to that.”

Rafferty added: “This is the first year that my salary has been capped and I still have to meet with the negotiations committee concerning those goals.”

Rafferty also gave an update on the new middle school. He spoke of ongoing discussions with the Department of Education concerning the construction and all of the different issues with that.

He said that there are concerns about moving in the middle of the year.  Cohan asked about a definite date. Rafferty responded that he received a letter from Terminal Construction that they are ahead of schedule and that the SDA has approved their schedule. However, he is going to ask for formal notification from the SDA that will state when they will be allowed to move in. Rafferty also said there are still issues concerning Sixth Street and Market Street, which is a county road.

 Cohan also brought up a question that was asked about substitute teachers having to pay a $60 premium to be a “preferred sub” with Source 4 Teachers.

Rafferty responded that he met with the senior vice president of Source 4 Teachers to discuss various concerns. He also stated that there is an app that helps substitutes get called first on a regular basis.

SJO reached out to Source4Teachers for clarification about the app and Owen Murphy, who is the Vice President of Marketing for Source 4 Teachers, provided the following response via email:

Per your request, I’m providing you with some details that can hopefully clear up any confusion around Source4Teachers having an app.

Simply put, we do not have our own app. We are partners with Frontline Technologies. We use their substitute management platform, Aesop, which is widely used by school districts as well. It’s Frontline that offers an app which gives its users access to all jobs housed by the Aesop platform. It’s called Jobulator. Their website advertises that the app is $5.99 per month.

Since Source4Teachers uses the Aesop platform, our jobs are pushed into Jobulator. But, of course, so are all of the other districts who use Aesop.  So when a person interested in picking up jobs uses the Jobulator app, they are seeing Source4Teachers opportunities, but also many others.

Like most apps, this is simply a mobile-specific presentation of the information. These same Source4Teachers jobs can be found directly on our website available to anyone we’ve hired.

In other matters, Principal Sean Gorman recognized ninth grade students: Anieli Colon, Emily Petrik, Brook Byrnes, and Umaya Islam, for being awarded college scholarships.

Two parents asked the BOE on behalf of their children for consideration that teacher Cailyn Hadley not be moved from their classroom.

 

On the business side, all items on the Board’s agenda were approved.

The bill list in the amount of $4,086,390.80 and various professional contracts for 2016-17 was approved. The list was included as part of the Board agenda.

Public Agenda, May 2016

Other approvals included:

  • Authorizing the Board Secretary/Business Administrator to award bid renovations of the high school cafeteria to accommodate coolers. This will be ratified by the BOE at the next Board meeting.
  • Contract renewal for Nutri-Serve Food Management for the 2016-17 school year for a total fee of $62,525.00. This will be year four of five years before the district is required to go out for a quote for food service management companies. Nutri-Serve guarantees that the bottom line on the operational financial report for the school year will be a return no less than $25,000.00. Increase of the consumer price index (CPI) is 0%
  • Award the Cold Springs partial fan coil replacement bid to Driscoll, Mech., LLC of Mt. Ephraim in the combined amount of base bid and alternate of $537,000. The bid includes a contingency allowance of $6,000.00.
  • A change order to the SDA new middle school project and to authorize proceeding with work per proposal to Terminal Construction by Ray Angelini, Inc. at a cost budget of $125,000, which includes a $14,418.90 contingency.
  • Extend the current trash contract with Waste Management from September 1, 2016-November 30, 2016 at pricing per the original bid.

Regarding Grant Items, the BOE granted permission to apply for the 2016 NJDA Summer Foods Program from June 27-July 28, 2016 based on enrollment at a price per student of $2.92 for breakfast and $3.68 for lunch. This program will provide breakfast and lunch for students at Cold Springs School, Mary Ethel Costello, and GHS.

The BOE also granted permission to apply for SketchUp Pro 3D modeling software application license for students for the 2016-17 school year. This will be for 710 licenses at $695 per license at a retail cost of $493,450. The SketchUp Pro Statewide K-12 Licensing Grant is available through the New Jersey Department of Education.

The BOE will meet next for its caucus meeting on Thursday, June 9 and again on Tuesday, June 14 for the regular meeting. The meetings are held in the GHS Media Center at 7:00 p.m.

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