April 01, 2020

SAD 53 discusses union drive, renovations

PITTSFIELD – The SAD 53 board of directors discovered Monday night that a simple request from a group of support staff within the district – secretaries, educational aides, custodians – to join the local teachers’ union, has become more complicated.

Superintendent Terrence McCannell told the board members that the district’s legal counsel had advised him to let the group organize. “They can petition the labor board,” said McCannell. Representatives of the group approached the school board last month regarding unionization, citing concerns that their part-time status prevented them from receiving benefits.

But McCannell said that a problem arose when he discovered that “the teachers’ union representative and I disagree on who should be represented.” McCannell said that some employees, specifically the lunchroom workers, have decided as a group not to join the union. McCannell said they told him that the union dues would take too much from their part-time paychecks.

There is also disagreement about whether confidential administrative secretaries should be included in the representation.

As a result, McCannell said the district’s attorney is counseling the support staff representatives, trying to determine exactly who shall be in the membership.

“Sounds more like Florida than Maine,” Director Katherine Spencer quipped.

McCannell also reported to the board that the district’s audit has been completed and “We are in very good shape.” He said that one area of concern, however, is that so much of the undesignated balance was used last July to offset taxation that the starting cash balance for the district was only $5,000. Although $400,000 was on hand at the end of the fiscal year, McCannell said the board voted to use $395,000 of that to lower appropriations.

“Each year, the amount used to lower taxation has risen,” he said.

In other business, McCannell recommended that the district hire a consultant as soon as possible to assist in overseeing the renovations of Vickery, Burnham Village and Warsaw middle schools. The $2.9 million in repairs were recently passed by voters.

McCannell recommended Steven Wintle of Facilities Management, a consultant he said he has worked successfully with in the past, and that a building committee meeting should be held to prioritize the planned projects and set time lines for renovation phases. The item that needs to be immediately addressed, he said, is replacement of the music room roof at Warsaw.

The board also accepted the resignation of J.P. Mailman of Burnham, who cited his work schedule as the reason he can no longer attend board meetings.

McCannell also reported that contract negotiations with Maine Central Institute are nearly completed.

A final joint meeting has been scheduled for Dec. 14 and the newly crafted contract should be ready for review by MCI trustees and the full board, said McCannell.

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