New Castle News

August 24, 2012

Change of Heart: New Castle board reconsiders, votes to hire janitor

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle School District’s John F. Kennedy Primary Center will have an evening custodian after all.

The school board, at a special meeting Tuesday, took a second vote to hire Geary George for the full-time job at the elementary school, in a 5-0 vote.

Superintendent George Gabriel said the issue was brought up at Tuesday’s meeting by board member Mary Ann Tofel, who had voted against it at the board’s regular meeting last week.

She reconsidered it, made a motion to hire George and changed her vote, Gabriel said. Four other members agreed. They were Mark Kirkwood, Allan Joseph, Stacey Fleo and Karen Humphrey. All four had voted for George’s hiring last week, as well.

The no-votes last week were by Tofel, and Barbara Razzano, Anna Pascarella and Dr. Marilyn Berkely. None of the other three attended Tuesday’s meeting.

George previously worked as a substitute custodian in the district for six years. He will be paid $22,880 this year.


Gabriel, who said he was angry about the board voting down the hiring last week, took exception yesterday to comments that were made by the dissenting board members about deficit spending and about the board not having been given any other options.

He termed that as “absolutely false,” saying the administration had provided alternatives to the janitor hiring.

Gabriel provided letters outlining three options from district buildings and grounds director Paul Fulena, and said Fulena had recommended that the district eliminate a maintenance position, which is separate from custodial.

That option would have instead made that the afternoon job at JFK with zero extra spending, he said.

However,  DiGiammarino, for one, rejected that idea, and the board just remained silent when it was proposed in executive session, Gabriel said.

“We had alternatives but they didn’t want to hear them because they involved furloughing of staff. They put their heads down and there was no response. That was the best option on the table, financially.”

Another option was to leave a day-to-day substitute in the custodial position, but the labor union rejected that idea, Gabriel said.

Yet another option was to not fill the position and try to shuffle  staff around, which was what the board wanted, he continued. But Fulena said he couldn’t do that because he’s already lost three or four custodians in the past three or four years, Gabriel pointed out.

The consquences of not filling the position would have been that rooms didn’t get cleaned after school, restrooms wouldn’t get cleaned, desks wouldn’t get wiped and sanitized, extracurricular activities would not be not taken care of, “and we would have had a filthy and probably unsanitary building,” Gabriel said.

“That’s why I was very upset.”

“The board wanted to reshuffle our staff, but that’s not feasible,” district business manager Joe Ambrosini added. ”It becomes a safety and health issue.”


“I totally reject the notion that this district is in deficit spending,” Gabriel said, explaining that a “deficit is when you spend more money than you have. We’re not in deficit spending. We’re tapping into a $14 million reserve that belongs to the school district.

“I think we’ve done a darn good job controlling costs,” he continued. “How do you get a $14 million surplus on a spending spree?”

The district has a comprehensive plan of how it will  reduce costs further, and the plan doesn’t include dipping into the fund balance every year,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel said the board met for a five-minute executive session for personnel reasons before Tuesday’s meeting, only to discuss a music teacher hiring. There was no discussion about it in the executive session, he said.