WESTFIELD – A maintenance consolidation plan between the city and schools; a job description for a new business manager with a recommendation to hire an interim business manager, and a retirement incentive option for Unit A teachers. were discussed March 16 during a Special School Committee meeting.
The meeting was originally planned as a joint Finance and Human Resources subcommittee meeting, but since six of the seven School Committee members would be present, they were advised by legal counsel to change it to a Special Meeting, according to Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.
The School Department and Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. are interested in creating a Department of Facilities to oversee all functions of building maintenance, including finance, personnel and maintenance, trade workers and custodial services. The director of facilities would oversee tradesmen, but school custodians would still report to building principals, Czaporowski said.
Ramon Diaz asked how the consolidation would affect contracts currently negotiated.
Human Resources Director Paula Ceglowski said the custodian contract is still with the School Committee. Under Education Reform, custodians are school department employees. Some language may have to be changed, such as grievance counselors which would be under director of facilities.
Ceglowski said custodians are currently at the negotiating table with a contract, which if approved, would begin July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2023.
“We’ve got to give it a three-year commitment to see if it works,” Ceglowski said about the consolidation.
Ceglowski said all trades people would be directly under the director of facilities. Currently the school department has an electrician, plumber, carpenter and HVAC tradesman, which would move under the city. Ceglowski said it would be an advantage to have tradesmen working for all city buildings.
The director of facilities will report to the mayor and superintendent, Czaporowski said. He said the move is intended to share resources and create more efficiencies. Eleven of the city buildings are schools, and the city is looking for the director of facilities to oversee maintenance. Another goal for the position is to create a three to five-year capital plan for all city buildings..
“We need a capital plan for our city that includes all our schools,” Czaporowski said.
Czaporowski said the idea was first discussed under Mayor Daniel Knapik, then Mayor Brian Sullivan, and now is moving forward under Humason, who was present at the meeting. He said the first step is for School Committee approval, and then it will go to the City Council. The goal is to implement the change by July 1 or make next year a transition year.
Approval of the school business administrator job for posting was also discussed following Chief Financial Officer Ronald R. RIx’s announcement that he will be retiring as of July 8.
Ramon Diaz, Jr. said the School Committee has the right to hire and fire the business administrator in consultation with the superintendent. He said it is similar to the superintendent position, which is also hired by the School Committee.
Tim O’Connor asked about the timing for the listing and hiring of the position.
“If approved, my recommendation is we appoint an interim. With the virus going around, we don’t know if we’ll get it off the ground. We’re looking or the smoothest transition we can have,” Czaporowski said.
When asked if he had someone in mind, Czaporowski recommended the current Grants Manager and Business Analyst Shannon Barry, who already works in the business office and on the budget and manages $5 million in grants for the district.
Diaz said that discussion needs to be put on the agenda at the next School Committee meeting.
The job description was approved.
Ceglowski said the Unit A Teachers early retirement incentive option is $15,000 in two payments, one in July 2020, one in January 2021. She said applicants may not have already submitted a letter of resignation or retirement, must retire effective July 1, and must have ten or more years of service in Westfield. Interested teachers must put in their letters of intent to retire by 3 p.m., Thursday, May 1.
Ceglowski said they can offer the package to up to 10 teachers. “Perhaps this incentive might help the budget and for recruitment,” she said.
Czaporowski said posting in May for teachers is better than later in the season. The motion passed unanimously.
After the meeting, Czaporowski said the money for the retirement incentive is coming from unused professional development funds due to the school closure. He said professional development days were planned that have been canceled, and the remaining funds may only be used for certain things.
The district has an agreement with the Westfield Education Association to use the funds for this purpose, Czaporowski said.