CAMDEN — During a Preble Shawnee Local Schools Board of Education meeting held Tuesday, June 29, a reduction in force (RIF) of non-teaching employees was approved, impacting the jobs of 10 employees.
The RIFs included a partial reduction in hours for six cafeteria workers and one cafeteria/custodial employee, and the full RIF of three custodial employees.
Sandy Taulbee, a Preble Shawnee employee for 29 years, addressed the board. “I had to do one more shot tonight after I read the agenda. I was not happy camper, of course. And as I address the board, I just want to remind you, that you guys are the voice of the people. You were voted in by the community. You do have the right to say no and veto recommendations from the superintendent. Just because he says so, that doesn’t mean it’s right.
“So, I’m hoping the board chooses to do the right thing tonight and speak for the people in the community and back the employees of Preble Shawnee,” she continued. “I hoped that the RIFs in the food service department could have been resolved in a different way. Cutting hours and benefits for seven people to me is cruel. These people have dedicated almost half of their life to Preble Shawnee, almost 30 years for some of them. Think about that. Why are we making the cuts now? Well, we’re told that we’re in a financial crisis. But yet we’re paying seven administrators hourly wages for summer school. To me, this is the part of their duties — these are their workdays, this should have been included in their regular salary. The food service workers are going to have to do the same amount of work in less time and not have any benefits. It’s not fair or equal. It looks to me like the top of the pile is getting loaded and the bottom is getting cut smaller and smaller. Pretty soon we’re going to topple over.”
Taulbee said most of the cuts being made were to employees who are close to retirement and being Medicare-eligible, noting she had hoped new cuts would start with new employees.
“That’s the way we’ve handled things in the past with custodial staff and etc.,” she continued. “The stress, pain and mental anguish that these employees have endured over the last 11 weeks has been unbearable for some.”
Sean Dahl, representing the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, also addressed the board. “My understanding was they wouldn’t take any cuts if the district passed the levy. However, I’ve since been informed that maybe that wasn’t exactly the case, as the district was planning some additional cuts,” Dahl said before presenting materials regarding laws dealing with public school employees.
“This provision within the law talks about the fact that once you’re on a continuing contract, you can provide salary increases, but no decreases, unless it’s unilateral across the board for all non-teaching. I think that’s pertinent information for the board to be aware of,” he said. “There’s a difference between riffing and cutting hours to try to do something along the lines of cutting benefits from full time employees.”
He continued, “My point here tonight is that the district seems to be under the impression this is going to be a cost savings measure. I want to make sure that it’s clear it’s not, because OAPSE has every intention to fight this every step of the way. So, grievances are costly. Arbitrations are costly. Unfair labor practices are costly. And we intend to pursue all of those matters. So having said that, we ask that the board rejects the superintendent’s proposed recommendations in regard to the wages and benefit cuts and riffs.”
Following public participation and Dahl’s comments, board members moved into an executive session for the purpose of “consideration of the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of a public employee.”
After the executive session and continuation of regular agenda items, Board President Julie Singleton addressed the RIFs discussed earlier. “One thing I do just want to mention in regards to the personnel recommendations, specifically around the food service workers, as this is something we’ve discussed for several weeks, months. You know, we have to make decisions for the best interest of the district. Unfortunately, those aren’t always easy decisions. But a decision has to be made. And we made a fair offer that would allow 20-plus-year employees to stay on insurance until they’re Medicare eligible. We thought that was fair. It was denied. And so, we’re going to continue to move forward.”
In other business
The board voted to rename Camden Primary to Preble Shawnee Elementary School (serving grade PK-4).
The board ecognized the following students: Brooke Dalton, FFA State; Degree; Madison Barnett, FFA Gold Rated Treasurer’s Book; Hailey Wells, FFA Gold Rated Reporter’s Book; Megan Roell, FFA 1st Place Ohio Ag Communications Proficiency Award; Carter Roell, FFA American Degree; Jared Dunn, State FFA Officer for the 2021-22 school year; Dylan Hatmaker, SWBL Player of the Year/First Team Baseball; Grady Hutchinson, SWBL First Team Baseball and Katie Craft, SWBL First Team Softball. Hutchinson and Hatmaker were in attendance.
Fred Specht, a district resident, presented a petition from the West Elkton Alumni group requesting a bell from the West Elkton School be returned to the village to be placed on display. School officials currently plan to collect and create a display of old bells from West Elkton, Gratis, and Camden, to represent Preble Shawnee.
Ina 4-1 vote, with Singleton voting no, the board approved a bid for the creation of school bus access road on Preble Shawnee Elementary School (formerly Camden Primary) property to address traffic concerns and improve safety from Back to Black Asphalt and Sealcoating LLC for a total of $34,690.
Singleton also voiced appreciation for outgoing Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop. “You have been such a valuable asset to our district,” she said. “You have fought with us through so much. And I’m very thankful that you fought with us to the end to get this operational levy, passed. You have really been an instrumental part in getting information out to our taxpayers — correct information. The amount of hours that you put have put into this district, we could not even put down on paper. So thank you. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors. We’re excited for Mr. Bowling, but we will certainly miss our partnership with you.”
The next meeting of the Preble Shawnee Local School Board of Education was scheduled for Thursday, July 8, at 6 p.m., at Preble Shawnee Junior/Senior High School.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr