Projects and personnel dominated the recent Mars Area school board meeting.
The board approved contracts March 19 for stadium bleachers and rubber tile in the primary center and heard employees and residents plead with them not to outsource paraprofessionals, secretaries and custodians.
The football stadium does not have enough bleachers, and the ones they do have are not accessible for the disabled, said superintendent William Pettigrew. Many times, the home and visiting bands must stand in the end zones, he said.
They considered adding accessible bleachers to the "home" and "away" sides of the stadium two years ago but put the project on hold because of budgetary concerns, he said.
He said the district has money available in its capital budget that was not used during recent school construction projects. That money has to be used for capital projects, and this qualifies, he said.
The board approved a contract with Stadium Solutions Inc. for the project. The company will do the work for the same price it quoted two years ago -- $24,450 for the foundation and $169,500 for the bleachers.
Mr. Pettigrew added that he hopes the work will be done before the fall sports season.
The board also approved a $26,038 contract with Continental Flooring Co. to replace the rubber floor tile in the halls of the primary center.
In other business, board President J. Dayle Ferguson reported that the district received 24 applicants for the superintendent's job, which will become vacant when Mr. Pettigrew retires on or before Dec. 1.
The candidates were from as far away as Florida. Board members have narrowed the candidates and will begin interviews shortly, she said.
Resident David Nearhoof cautioned board members to be careful with outside candidates.
"I don't think that our district needs a major overhaul," he said. "We are not throwing out a superintendent because there are problems. I want to make sure that people that are currently here are being considered."
Mr. Nearhoof said Mr. Pettigrew was "forward thinking. We always said he was 10 years ahead of his time."
Other speakers urged the board not to outsource paraprofessionals, secretaries and custodians. The district has threatened to outsource the positions if a contract is not reached with the union representing those employees. The union last week announced that members rejected a tentative agreement.
Resident Terry Caldwell said he came to the meeting at the request of his son, who no longer lives in the area. "He said if it wasn't for those (support staff), besides the teachers, he would have more problems in school than he did," Mr. Caldwell said.
Rita Lanza, a paraprofessional at the Centennial School, said she is "loyal" and "dedicated" to the district.
"Shortly after I was hired six years ago, I would tell people that I have the best job in the world and, six years later, I would say the same thing," she said. "I truly love this job and have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to work with some wonderful children."
Ms. Lanza added that the secretaries are "the glue that holds everything together and they are the focal point for our students whenever something happens."
She told the board to "seriously consider the impact outsourcing would have on our students.
"At the end of the day, the welfare of our students is of the utmost importance, more so than saving a few dollars."
Teacher Darcy Silbaugh said the support staff has the support of the teachers' union.
"You make our jobs so much easier," she said.
"We hope the district and your association can come to a mutually beneficial agreement."
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: email@example.com.