ADAMS TWP — The Mars Educational Support Personnel Association has rejected a contract presented to them by the Mars School District.
Union President Laurie Dufford told the school board Tuesday evening the 81-member union voted on Feb. 20 to reject the agreement.
Dufford said the union’s negotiation team presented the school board with a modified agreement, which she hopes the board will consider.
“We look forward to continuing our negotiations with the board,” Dufford said. “We do want to come to an agreement.”
She said the main sticking points are wage issues, which she feels the two sides can agree upon in further negotiations. If that happens, a contract will be likely, Dufford said.
“I feel we’re close,” she said. “I feel it will be soon.”
There was no need for the school board to vote on the agreement because it was rejected by the union.
The association includes secretaries, custodians, paraprofessionals and cafeteria workers.
The school board in June voted to search for bids for an outside contracting company that would supply the district with support personnel.
School officials stated the bids were sought in the interest of information during negotiations, but once the bids were received, they determined a sizable savings could be realized by using outside workers in support positions.
Several parents and teachers since have voiced their support for the workers to the school board, saying they would rather see residents of the district serving in support positions than outsiders.
Mars parent John Quinn told the school board Tuesday night he works for a security firm that has been busy providing services to school districts all over Western Pennsylvania since the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Quinn said an important question he asks school district officials is whether dedicated employees or contracted workers fill support positions.
He then asks if contracted workers have the proper background checks and if they are drug tested, because school officials don’t know who will be coming into the schools.
“The majority of the support staff in our school district have worked here for many, many years,” Quinn said. “We have to make sure that the people who are working in the schools have the appropriate (background) checks, the appropriate drug testing, and are the right people to work in the schools.”
Quinn said many former employees and managers from support staff contracting companies are now working for the school districts he services.
“As a resident and parent of three students in the Mars Area School District, I am here to support (the union workers), and the board also, for your continued efforts to come to a mutual agreement,” he said.
School board members did not comment on the union vote or the modifications to the rejected contract.