Mars Area school support staff rejects contract

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It's back to the drawing board for the Mars Area school board and the union representing the support staff.

Laurie Dufford, president of the Mars Area Support Professionals Association, told school board members Tuesday that her members rejected a tentative agreement reached last month. The previous contract expired June 30.

The union includes 114 secretaries, custodians and paraprofessionals.

The board did not vote on the agreement because the union had rejected it. The two sides will meet again March 20.

Mrs. Dufford said the union's negotiating team presented a new proposal to the board last week.

"We feel we are making progress. We are working hard," she said.

She said that most of the "sticking points" have to do with wages.

"I feel that we are close," she said. "I hope it will be soon that we can reach an agreement."

Mars Area officials have threatened to outsource the positions if they cannot reach a contract with the union, and sought proposals from outside companies to provide the services.

"When you bring in contractors, you take away people who are employees of the school district," resident John Quinn told board members.

Mr. Quinn, a security consultant, said the district would have to ensure that the contractors do background checks and random drug testing on their employees.

"You need to know who is coming and who is going. I think the majority of the support staff ... has worked here for many, many years. You know the faces. You know the people. You know who is coming in your doors," he said. "There is comfort level. There is a security level."

In other business, the board approved an agreement with the St. Barnabas Land Trust Inc. for payments to the school district in lieu of property taxes for its Woodlands property in Valencia.

Also, board President J. Dayle Ferguson said more than 600 people participated in a district survey on the qualities they want in the next superintendent.

Board members are meeting with their search consultant to review applications, and hope to have the first round of interviews in April. Superintendent William Pettigrew plans to retire by Dec. 1.


Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:


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