KENNETT SQUARE—The Kennett school board voted Monday night to abolish an administration position and discharge the staff member who held it, and its members expect an arbitration dispute as a result.
At the monthly meeting of the Kennett Consolidated School District board, the members took the action after being told by Assistant Superintendent Michael Barber that the administration recommended the abolishment of the position of maintenance project manager.
“The director of facilities prefers a hands-on approach, and with that the project manager’s role has been made redundant. The district does not currently foresee any sizable projects that are significant facilities projects that warrant the services of a full-time project manager. Thus we feel that the administration is recommending capitalizing on savings of the position’s salary and benefits without any reduction in services.” Barber said.
The board voted without discussion to abolish the position effective June 3. Paola Rosas-Weed abstained.
Barber also recommended that the board discharge Robert Moran, the current maintenance project manager. The board voted to do so, again with Rosas-Weed abstaining.
In a related step, Barber recommended that in the event Moran requested an arbitration hearing, the board appoint the Levin Legal Group to be serve as hearing officer. The board voted unanimously to do so.
After the meeting, Board President Joseph Meola said they expected Moran to request an arbitration hearing.
In other business, Mark Tracy, the assistant to the superintendent for business affairs, said the school district would continue to charge $1.50 for all students for breakfast and continue to charge $2.75 for lunch for elementary students and $3.00 for middle- and high-school students for the 2019–2020 school year.
The board presented an award to Juan Carlos Alvarez and Sofia Marcelo for their long-term participation in the Apex program, an effort to engage parents in their children’s education. Alvarez and Marcelo said they began working in the project to help their own children, and continued in order to help others in the community.
The board members voted to reappoint Michael Finnegan as the board’s treasurer. “It’s a tough, tough position,” Meola said, in which Finnegan “does a phenomenal job.”
Rachel Bowers, a former teacher at Kennett Middle School, addressed the board to argue that suspensions were harmful to students and should be minimized and eliminated where possible.
Bowers cited research that showed suspensions tended to have negative effects on behavior in a way that created problems for the students themselves and for others in the school. She said that while suspensions in Kennett schools were going down, the rate was still high compared to other districts, and suspensions were applied disproportionately to Latino students.
Among the measures Bowers recommended were emphasizing positive teacher-student relationships, engaging students and their families, eliminating suspensions for minor misbehaviors and getting rid of them entirely in the elementary grades.
Administrators in the district are dedicated to good outcomes for their students, Bowers said, and they needed options besides suspensions.
“We agree with you 100 percent,” said Superintendent Barry Tomasetti. He said the district used various approaches to improve student behavior and minimize suspensions, including having students eat lunch privately, apart from their friends, rather than staying home during a suspension. He also mentioned parent engagement and decision-making tools to help teachers choose the best response to problem behavior.
After the meeting, Tomasetti distributed a five-page list of the ways the district sought to help students avoid problems and flourish in school, and the board members said they would look at materials Bowers drew some of her points from.