Residents of the Quakertown Community poured out to attend Thursday evening's school board meeting to show their support for the district's custodial workers and food service employees whose jobs are being threatened with outsourcing.
There are 111 members of the custodial and food service staff throughout the ten schools of the Quakertown Community School District. The support staff contract is set to expire June 30.
As part of the boards "do diligence," board president Bob Smith stated the board is looking at all the available options, not having yet made a decision to renew the contract or to use a third-party as their staff.
While negotiations with the union are still underway, eight companies submitted proposals in hopes of replacing the support staff of Quakertown.
A packed room, filled with concerned residents, spoke out on behalf of their kids safety, the student familiarity of the staff, and community feel of the school.
High school senior Tyler Stalletti told the board "if you replace these secretaries, custodians and food personnel with strangers, then our district will no longer be a whole community." Stalletti thanked the staff for the dedicated work and said he knows every one within his school community.
Scott Hendricks, President of the Quakertown Education Support Professionals and Head Custodian at Richland Elementary School, presented the school board with two petitions; one from a community posted online petition, the other with over 1,500 signatures from members of the community not wanting local jobs to be outsourced. Hendricks invited any of the board members to visit and observe what the experienced, skilled, committed employees do in their daily work.
"How can a group a people who compromise less than 6% of the total budget be the problem?" asked Vic Bartholomew, who works at the Freshman Center. He believes that every staff member does his or her best job because they are part of the community. "You can't put a price on loyalty, dedication and hard work." Those in attendance applauded and cheered in support. If the board decides to outsource, it was posed to the board to remove the word "community" from the district's title, as members of the community would not be employed by the school.
"Food service employees wages do not come out of the district budget, why would we want to get rid of them when they have their own separate accounts?" Debbie Calabrette, a food service work at Trumbauersville Elementary School, has had five generations of her family go through Quakertown schools. The cafeteria staff and food is funded directly from the money of the students lunch. Calabrette stated the school has received certificates in meeting all the necessary qualifications to make the subsidies provided by the state.
In an online Q&A posted by the school board on the issue, it states they "consider alternatives that could provide at least the same level of service, but at a lower cost."
Many are concerned the outsourcing would result in an unsafe environment for the school, especially with the recent tragedy of the Sandy Hook students. Suzanne Hendricks, of Milford Township said, "I'm quite concerned for the safety and well-being of the children." The main concern is the children's safety, as many of the residents who spoke do not want strangers in the schools who do not know the children and are not from the Quakertown community.
"If you go to outsourcing, who is going to know the families and what safety measures are you going to institute to protect our children," Hendricks stated, stressing how the outsourcing would have a negative psychological impact to the students.
"The main issue is the welfare of our children," Calabrette told the board. She fears that if the outsourcing does occur, eventually the entire support staff, 243 workers in total, may have their jobs threatened as well.
Smith stated that the board is "not taking this decision lightly" and have not yet made a decision.