ST. MARYS — Dozens of secretaries, aides and other St. Marys Area School District employees packed the library for Monday’s school board meeting, eager to share their opinions on outsourcing support staff.
Ann Wendel, a SMASD secretary of 15 years, told the board she loves her job, and that her voice needs to be heard.
“The person I am needs a voice, a voice to say why I am upset with my current workplace,” she said. “I have recently felt invisible to many of the people sitting around these tables. I’ve taken every job that the principal, the assistant principal, superintendent gives me, with great responsibility, and I take my job very seriously. I feel my side needs to be heard.”
Wendel added she has not once been asked why she is upset.
“I got hired when my children were in this school,” she said. “I’ve helped many of your children get into colleges by making sure their transcripts are accurate, their credits were right. I take my job very, very seriously, and do it with as much success as I can, with the limited time I have, because I keep getting things added to my job. I don’t need anything taken away.”
Wendel went on to say if anyone were planning to retire from a place, then informed they were being outsourced, they would wonder what would happen to their benefits.
Another speaker was Andy Swasta, who worked as a therapeutic support staff (TSS) member with all ages in SMASD for seven years.
“These are some of the best people I have ever worked with,” he said of support staff. “If you work with them, you’ll come to a successful resolution.”
St. Marys Education Support Professional Association President Michele Burdick also spoke, first distributing several letters from district parents to each board member.
“Dr. (Brian) Toth, as well as other administrators, are able to come into work every single day and do their jobs, and focus on their jobs, without cause of worry,” she said. “If we are doing our jobs and taking care of the students, as well as unseen functions of the district, the reason for that is because of a very competent support staff who show up every single day to do their job.
“Whether or not the board is told, these jobs are done very well, and very accurately.”
Burdick spoke of students, nurses, tutors and others she said outsourcing would ultimately impact.
“Everyone is replaceable, but knowledge and experience is not,” she said.
President Eric Wonderling thanked each visitor.
“The board hears what you are saying,” he said.
Shortly after the meeting moved on to different topics, board member Lewis Murray said he would like to make a sudden motion. “Interest-based bargaining,” a model being used throughout the country, is a negotiation strategy that involves both parties collaborating to come to an agreement, he said.
Murray suggested two support staff employees — the people directly impacted by the results — attend the negotiation meetings between SMASD and the union. Two board members will also sit in on those meetings.
The motion was seconded and carried.
There will be no board meeting in July.