ADAMS TWP — The Mars School Board on Tuesday night heard more encouragement to come to an agreement with the Mars Area Educational Support Personnel Association.
The two sides started negotiating last spring.
The school district presented a tentative agreement to the association last month, but it was voted down by the union membership on Feb. 20.
Several of the 81 employees in the association, which includes secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodians and cafeteria workers, attended the school board meeting Tuesday night.
Rita Lanza, a paraprofessional who follows two students during the school day, addressed the board.
“I truly love this job and have been blessed to work with such wonderful children over the last six years,” Lanza said.
Lanza warned the board that outsourcing support jobs, which is a money-saving option that the board president said remains on the table, would be a disaster for students.
“If you outsource, I do not believe you will get the dedicated, passionate, loyal workers you now have on staff,” Lanza said.
She said the current support personnel know the students and have established relationships with them as well as with their families. She said many of the special needs students she and other paraprofessionals work with could experience difficulty if they are exposed to constantly rotating helpers, as those students do best in a consistent environment.
Regarding the school secretaries, Lanza said they deal with situations like forgotten lunches and changes in transportation plans at dismissal with ease because they know the students and many of their families.
“You should seriously consider the impact outsourcing would have on our students,” Lanza said.
Mars resident Terry Caldwell said his son graduated from Mars a few years ago with more than a little difficulty. Caldwell said he told his son, who no longer lives in the Mars area, about the possibility of contracted employees serving in support positions.
“He said, ‘Would you please tell the school board what those people meant to me?’” Caldwell said.
Caldwell’s son said if not for the paraprofessionals, custodians and secretaries who helped him each day, he would have had more problems graduating than he actually had.
Teacher Darcy Silbaugh told the board the teachers hope an agreement with the support personnel could be reached soon.
“We stand behind you and we are so appreciative of the work you do every day,” she said to the support personnel filling the seats at the meeting.
The board did not comment on Tuesday night, but board President Dayle Ferguson has said in the past that she and the other board members hope a fair agreement can be reached.
Union President Laurie Dufford said last week that she feels the two sides are close to an agreement.