Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E Employees continue to speak out …

The dust is beginning to settle post-election and I’m going through the stack of political campaign cards that I received over the last month. There were some unkind remarks made from both sides of the political aisle during the campaign; one candidate joking on Election Day, that “all’s fair in love and politics”. There’s going to be winners and losers in any race and with that comes the reality that everyone is not going to be happy with the results. But after the votes are counted, it’s time for the winners to get down to the business of delivering their campaign promises.

Case in point — I received harsh critcism from some of the local political insiders for posting Debbie Watson’s letter on Community Matters a couple of days before the election. Some viewed that my timing was calculated and would damage school board candidates chances with this information coming so close to Election Day. To set the record straight — Debbie sent her letter to me late on Friday, November 1. She and I exchanged a number of emails over the weekend about whether to go public with the information with her name attached it. After thoroughly discussing the situation with her husband, Debbie concluded on Sunday, November 3 that these were important school district issues and that the letter should be posted on Community Matters (which I subsequently did that day).

There was no political calculus on my part in posting Debbie’s letter on Community Matters, no political motivation and the timing of the post was never discussed. During the last 9 months, there have been many discussions about employee morale, respect and communication issues in the District. Although poignant, Debbie’s story was not ‘new’ , but rather a continuance of a reoccuring theme.

I am offended that some have suggested that Debbie is nothing more than an isolated, disgruntled employee eliciting ‘sour grapes’. Or that her words should be dismissed since she’s a short-timer in the District. It’s true that Debbie probably was more comfortable using her own name on the letter because she was leaving the District but that doesn’t mean her words are less valid or her message less troubling. She grew up in the T/E School District, went to school here and continues to live in our community– why would Debbie risk the relationship with her friends, neighbors and co-workers by speaking out? The answer is simple — she believed that the community outside of the schools needed to know what she was seeing and hearing, as an employee, on the inside.

Community Matters exists because I believe that we are all entitled to have our voices heard — the tagline is ‘Your Voice Matters, Join the Conversation”. Admittedly, I was concerned that Debbie was risking retribution by speaking out and hoped that it would not happen. Actually (among her co-workers anyways) it appears that just the opposite has happened. In an update following the posting of her letter on Community Matters, Debbie wrote,

I have had people approaching me at work to tell me that others have been passed up for jobs in other departments as well. We have many men who are working as custodians but are qualified roofers, painters, plumbers etc. (these are jobs they held previously before becoming custodians) As higher paying jobs have opened up, they have applied and been overlooked and job placements have gone to outside applicants.

Also, aides have come to me. The ones that have been replaced (due to resignations during the summer and at the start of school) have largely been hired through a company called Delta T (?) So in reality, the district IS outsourcing, accomplishing their goal from last year but doing it in a way that at least deserves to be questioned.

After reading Debbie’s personal account on Community Matters, another employee of the District sent the following comment,

I have first-hand knowledge of the incidents described by the author [Debbie Watson]. The district brought in a new food-service manager that uses bullying, threats, and intimidation to force his will on people.

I know for a fact that his most recent hire is his next door neighbor, who does not posess a valid Serve-Safe certificate and has ZERO food service experience, yet he was hired over several qualified TE employees.

The food service manager is dumping his work on his secretary,(who ran the office for 2 months without a manager in place)and trying to insert himself where he doesn’t belong.

He directed one kitchen manager to prepare a special meal, for a certain student, everyday. The student’s mother brings in a bag of groceries each week and the staff is to prepare him his special meals each day. Incredible!

He has also implemented weekly meetings at the District offices. This means that some managers are away from their kitchens for 2 hours during the most important time of day, meal prep. The managers belong on-site when food is being prepared, it is their job to make sure the food is handled safely.

The administration also told custodians to check all trash cans each night for bombs! Check for bombs? The custodians? With what training? Completely ridiculous. No wonder why they don’t want new hires from inside the district, they’re probably embarassed.

I know someone will have a problem with me being anonymous. I have to remain this way to keep my job. Trust me, everything in this post is 100% true. Almost all of it can be easily proven by talking to ex-employees or questioning certain administrators UNDER OATH.

Election Day has passed but employee morale and hiring policy concerns remain. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. Employees deserve ‘fairness’ in the workplace.

Rather than worrying about whether District empl9yees remarks on Community Matters may have an effect on candidate election results, I hope that employee morale, trust and communication issues will be more than just talking points for political campaigns. At a minimum, the prudent thing would be for the school board to look into the allegations from employees. What is really going on? Are standard hiring policies being following? Where’s the accountability?

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