The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is looking into the possibility of using an outside agency to provide support staff within the schools.
It has been an ongoing hot topic among board members for the last month and after a revision, the board brought to light a change in the pilot study where they will use the agency to place 10 percent of staff by category.
The two most outspoken against such a plan are board members Kathleen Do and Leticia DeWilde.
“I’m still not sure this is the best approach to be taking particularly because providing an education is unlike any other business,” DeWilde said. “Our public differentiates between office support provided by other business and educational services and business which require people to interact with our children.”
Do felt this move may tarnish the reputation of the district in bringing in the “best and brightest” employees and for a long period of time.
“I am fearful that by significantly diminishing the benefits of working at Unionville-Chadds Ford, this may no longer be the case in terms of our support staff and paraprofessionals,” Do said. “For the first time, we will have people in the district working side-by-side doing the same job, but under very different circumstances.
“We know that our employees will have benefits while we presume that the staffing agency employees will not. We do not know if there will be a paid differential to make up for the fact that these staffing agency employees will not be receiving health insurance.”
A resident of the school district who has already gone through this process was in attendance and used the opportunity to speak up during residential comments at the end of the meeting.
She has lived in the district for over 25 years and had her children go through the system and become successful in their lives, so she is proud to have had her children in the Unionville-Chadds Ford schools, but concerned over this move.
“I did accept a job in the Kennett school district as a special ed. paraprofessional,” she said. “I have been there for 12 years and I was one of the 63 paraprofessionals that were terminated and we are now outsourced.
“My feeling is that it is insulting to have had all of our benefits taken away from us. Just my observation, the people that they are hiring are all very young and right out of college and are only there, I can see, temporarily as they are growing their careers.”
She offered a counter plan that involved leaving support staffers with just major medical and taking away dental, vision and prescriptions to save money instead of going a whole new route, which the board said was something they were considering before.
Despite the growing concerns from Do and DeWilde, the board voted 6-2 in favor of the pilot program.
“I certainly recognize the potential financial benefits of moving toward and utilizing staffing agencies to fill open support staff positions,” Do said. “I believe the corresponding potential detriments to our children’s educational experience and our district’s stellar reputation need to be considered in this matter.
“It is still my very strong hope that even if the program provides the desired financial benefits, each board member will consider the long-term impact this program will have on the quality of our schools and our continued ability to attract and retain the highest caliber employee to care for our children.”
The board approved a couple of changes involving classes for the following 2014-15 academic year.
After reviewing data from the Keystones, the Level One Biology students for ninth graders were unable to achieve a proficiency level. With the sense of the Keystone test being broader than the course taught, it will now be replaced with a Global Science course, turning it now into a general introductory class.
A new math course, Traditional Online Geometry, will be added over the summer. Students who wish to take the class must have completed ninth grade and Traditional Algebra I and may have to pay for the course. This class now gives the ability for students who take algebra in ninth grade, instead of eighth, the opportunity to have calculus their senior year.
Four new physical education class options of Team and Individual Games, Experiential and Adventure Based Education, Strength and Conditioning and Lifetime Fitness will add variety for students in 11th and 12th grade.
Special education class names were changed in order to give students with learning disability some confidentiality so that the disabilities of each individual student are not identified. Autistic Support was changed to Strategies for Life and Life Skills Support was changed to Practical Life Skills. The recommendation was made by the district’s legal counsel.