Quakertown residents rallied together last Thursday night in a standing-room-only crowd with a clear message for school board officials - do not jeopardize the safety of the district’s children by outsourcing support staff positions.
School board officials have been contemplating subcontracting out positions within the food service and custodial departments which could cost approximately 100 people their jobs.
Officials have claimed financial issues as the reasoning behind the possible outsourcing with a reported food service operating loss in 3 out of the last 5 years and decreased meal participation throughout the district. The food service and custodial budget is $5.5 million with the staff’s contract ending June 30.
School board President Bob Smith admitted, “We’ve asked for proposals but nothing has been bid. Nothing has been decided.”
Smith went on to say that the board is in negotiations with the support staff union, Quakertown Education Support Professionals Association (QESPA).
Countless community members took to the podium voicing their concerns on the outsourcing dilemma. Milford Township resident Suzanne Hendricks pointed out to officials that student’s psychological needs must be considered as the majority of support staff employees have been with the district for years.
“Children need to be safe in their own environment,” Hendricks said.
The majority of concerns are in lieu of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy and bringing strangers into Quakertown schools who will not be able to differentiate between a parent or random person off the street walking the halls.
Current support staff employees also argued that by outsourcing positions to unfamiliar faces students will become scared and uncomfortable.
Quakertown resident and food service employee, Debbie Calabrette, remarked that the safety and welfare of the children needs to be the top priority in this decision. Calabrette said, “We live here. We work here. We shop here. We pay our taxes here. Why would we want strangers in our schools?”
Victor Bartholomew, custodial employee at the Freshman Center, argued that the school board cannot put a dollar amount on hard work in the community. Bartholomew exclaimed, “We (support staff employees) are part of a community. You might as well change the school’s name to Quakertown School District because there will no longer be a ‘community’ in our schools.” Scott Hendricks, current head custodian at Richland Elementary, presented the school board with two petitions one of which contained over 1,500 signatures from the community showing their opposition for outsourcing. Hendricks remarked, “Some things are priceless, like our children and their safety and security.”
School board officials had little comment regarding the topic with President Bob Smith stating, “At this point, I have no comment because we are in negotiations with the union.”