Calais School Committee Held Special Meeting

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By Gwen Clark

The Calais School Committee held a Special Meeting last Thursday at the High School Library to deal with a fairly pressing Agenda for their 2012-2013 School Year.    

Under Public Comment Resident Matt O’Rouke  expressed his concern and placed a request that both School Committee and the City Council will be able to come together in an attempt to rectify the shortfall with the schools, with both sides bringing positive ideas for discussion.   School Committee members in attendance were: John Hill, Kathleen Caso, Lea Farrar, and Bob Greenlaw.

New Business: Began with the motion of adoption of Policy Code GBGAA Bloodborne Pathogen Control Plan Policy.  The Committee had reviewed the Policy and a motion was made by Kathleen Caso, seconded by Lea Farrar to adopt this safety policy.   A Request for an overnight approval  in order for the JMG to attend the Officers Conference in Waterville on September 26th.  A total of seven students would be attending.  Ed Leeman spoke to the committee on this request, usually only the JMG Senior members attend, himself as well as female JMG Specialists chaperones will be in attendance, no student will be un-chaperoned and the program itself is totally self-sufficient.  Their request was for approval and bus transportation.  It was approved unanimously.  The Committee made a request to amend the agenda to include a brief meeting with the Calais Education Association in Executive Session.  Those CEA Representatives were present and the committee did so at that time.  Upon returning to open session Co-Chairman of the Committee John Hill expressed  that he felt the meeting went well and a possibility of both sides working together pending on the outcome of the budget resolution.

Reduction in Force was listed under new Business on the Agenda, notices have been sent out to the school staff members alerting them of possible position cuts during the school year and the new Superintendent Keith Laser stated that the “Principals have met with him and offered up some small things” in solutions but no final decisions have been warranted at this time.     The Superintendent’s Report, newly hired  Superintendent Keith Laser  related that things have started up smoothly, was a little concerned about the bus schedules but have had not complaints and problems.  He apologized for having to send out the notices to the staff but it was something that he was directed to do and they will move on from there.

Matt Clark made a suggestion that in order to make sure both Council and Committee members are up to date on meetings that lines of communications between the two buildings: city hall and the schools  be keep informed as to when and where.

Resident Matt O’Rouke asked if the Committee or Superintendent could shed some light on some concerns that have been thrown around in public as well as on line about the teachers’ benefits.   

O’Rouke stated that:  “Some people think that teachers’ insurance benefits are 100%. Its not true, it is called a primary (single) and costs a lot extra to add the family. You have to pay for co-pays, you have to pay  for medicine and its not fair to say that the Calais School Department pays for 100%  of that employee and their family. It’s just not true.  The other thing  that the insurance does is that the insurance is based on  use so if everybody  is healthy, it’s cheaper for the school. If they’re sick, it’s not cheap for the school.  We’re a small community. I think we know that there’s been quite a few people that have been dealing with some severe illnesses some of them chronic some have gone into remission and then come back, so that doesn’t make it cheap for the school department. I also believe that until recently that it used to be average throughout the whole state so that if Calais had high year of  use and others had low year use that those were the areas that kind of bore our burden.  But now I believe its per District so Calais as well as most of Washington County is not the most cancer free area.  And so Calais being a small area that’s what’s causing the insurance to be high.  It’s not because we have Cadillac insurance,  its just that we have unfortunately some people that have some  health needs.”  

Committee member Kathleen Caso: “Its called Risk-pool and because of the issue with the affordable care act it may be a misnomer.”  (Concerning a possible decrease in insurance next year).  

Freve:  “Its not a Cadillac but its a good policy.  The premiums are competitive for groups throughout the country.  Its based on catastrophic use.”  

Supt. Laser:  “I think Auburn went up 13%. It all depends on where you live.”  Due to legislation that required insurance companies to reveal their prices to other competitors in order for a school committee to look for other insurance companies  with cheaper coverage, most of the competitors have maintained very similar rates depending on the area or Districts.

John Hill:  “One of the perks that the teachers had was to keep their insurance because they were not getting pay raises.”  In the Teaching Profession as professionals they can receive Steps depending on their years of teaching, number of updated classes they have taken to become more efficient and knowledgeable about modern and current issues.  The teachers gave up a Step three years ago  and once that step has been passed they can not regain it.   

Resident and City Employee Marcia Hayward:  “I have the payroll records that show that the school department had 109  pay increases rather you call them steps or, I got the actual payroll records , over the total employees,  I asked for the ending payroll in June and the beginning payroll in July  when the raises would take effect, 2011 to current.”  

O’Rouke:  “You have the employees for the town too right?”  

Hayward: “Yes I do.”  

O’Rouke:  “How many employees for the school?”    

Hill:  “175”.  

O’Rouke:  “So 175 employees, so you’re saying that the school got 109 increases including the steps, and they get no cost of living increases.  So when was the last contract up?  That would be when you get your raises correct?”  

Freve:  “Contracts for teachers are  September to August.  They get their increases in the first payroll in September.  That’s when the contract takes effect.”  

O’Rouke: “All of them occur at the same time when that new contract begins?” 

 Freve:  “Yes.”  

Caso:  “We don’t understand what shes talking about.”  

O’Rouke:  “So Chris (Bernardini)  do you know how many employees the town has?”  

Bernardini:  “Not right off hand Matt No.”  

O’Rouke:  “So what was your number for the town raises?” 

Hayward:  “31. What we’re getting hung up on is the difference between a step, a cost of living adjustment, or a pay raise.  For the municipal employees any time that your pay goes up that’s a raise, regardless of what you call it, its more money in your pocket.  So what I did  because of the way the municipal side of the budget works, I asked for payroll records from both the school department and the municipal side, for the last payroll in  June and the beginning one in July, it would actually be the second one in July because  sometime that week...for 2011 until current. I found  a total of 109 times  that somebody’s pay was increased and its not all the same person but some people got more money  every year.”

Teacher Anne Scott:  “For one thing our steps don’t change June to July, June and July we are on the same salary schedule.  What changes between June and July is what is withdrawn from our paychecks.  Our Union dues do not come out in the summer, our health insurance does not come out in the summer, it comes out from September until June.  That’s why there is a significant pay increase on 109 people from June to July.  Nobody’s salary changes from June to July, our withdrawals decrease.”  

Hayward:  “So if we looked at the September pay records?  That would be a fair assessment?”  

Scott:  “There’s one other thing too, it would be a fairer assessment but not  everyone gets a change.  There are steps that are locked  for five and because we set it backwards six years.  So I currently am in a place, I have over twenty  years experience but my time card says step twenty.  I am at step twenty until that contract allows me to cross the twenty five mark and if we keep backing it up its more time before that changes.  So my salary is locked until the number of years I’ve put in crosses the next line.  You will find that the larger number of school employees are there not above.  When the employee contract changes , I don’t know how raises are done in the city level , rather its a percentage of that persons pay, a raise for my salary is not a percentage of my pay.  Its a percentage of a step 0 pay, so when they say 2% on the base, its 2% of $30,000 which is $600, a step increase is 5% of the base, so if I going to get a step increase on top of my raise , its 5% of 2%, 5% of $600 is $30 so there’s my pay raise, $30.”

O’Rouke:  “While the City got a pay raise does that take into account our Town Manager?  Last year we had a special referendum  to increase supplies to the schools, and the next City Council Meeting unanimously  voted to give our Town Manager, I believe it was $10,000.  Dwelley has informed me it was $7000.  So you’re telling me that out of these increases, that went for the town that we have to go through a special referendum to make sure that the school has  supplies  However, the City Council will give our Town Manager a $7000 or a $10,000 increase.  It doesn’t show good priorities there.”  

Hayward:  “I can’t control the Council.”

The final minutes of the Agenda  the Committee went into executive session  for two separate decisions Once returning to  open session  Robert Moholland and Sue Carter’s contracts were renewed for the up-coming year.