New Castle News

New Castle

August 17, 2012

School board says no to janitor hiring

NEW CASTLE — New Castle Area School District’s superintendent is unhappy about the board’s refusal to hire a janitor.

On a 5-4 vote, the board rejected George Gabriel’s recommendation to hire Geary George as a full-time evening custodian for the John F. Kennedy Primary Center.

George had worked as a substitute custodian in the district for six years.

But some of those who voted against his hiring said their votes were not personal, but for budgetary reasons.

No votes were cast by Barb Razzano, David DiGiammarino, Anna Pascarella, Dr. Marilyn Berkely and Mary Ann Tofel.

Board president Allan Joseph and member Stacey Fleo did not attend the meeting but voted by phone in favor of the hiring. Karen Humphrey and Mark Kirkwood also cast yes votes.

“It was not a budgeted position,” Razzano said after the meeting.

According to DiGiammarino, consensus votes twice before in executive session resulted in it being rejected.

The district had a substitute in the position for a year and the board had agreed not to pursue a permanent hiring because conditions may change if the Lockley School consolidation project proceeds, Razzano explained.

“This was the third time they brought it to us, and nobody had any interest in doing anything that wasn’t in this year’s budget,” she said.

“Adding another position, in my opinion, I don’t think is a smart move,” she said. “I prefer not to add to a budget that’s already in a deficit,” meaning money would have to be pulled from the fund balance.

“I’m hoping that maybe the custodial staff can get together and make this work somehow. We’re hoping they can shift around or maneuver somehow and be a little creative.”

Gabriel let his feelings be known to the board.

“I’m very upset about this position not being filled.”

He explained the person filling the job would be cleaning classrooms after school and emptying wastebaskets as part of the evening work and that would leave the janitorial staff short-handed soon.

DiGiammarino said despite the board’s previous disagreement with the job, “we still haven’t received or been given any options on ways to make this work. There are solutions to every problem. It’s not the board’s job to come up with solutions. It’s the board’s job to vote on solutions given to them by the professionals.”

His biggest reason for voting down the position, he said, is that the money for it is not in the budget.

“We’re operating on an $840,000 deficit budget. Where I come from, any increase in that deficit is hard for me to say yes to. I don’t operate on a deficit-spending mentality.”

The district’s $14 million in reserve is great, but that can go away very quickly, DiGiammarino continued. “I’m hard-pressed to agree on anything that is going to increase that deficit and pull more money from the fund balance.”

He explained the union is not letting the district fill the position with a substitute janitor again this year. Rather, it is requiring a full-time person be hired, with benefits.

“In my mind, whether it’s $5,000 or $6,000, it’s increasing the deficit.”

Pascarella pointed out that the three times the board has considered the position have been since June 28, after the 2012-13 budget was adopted.

“My stance was known before I knew the name of the individual,” she said, adding she voted no for budgetary and other reasons.

Berkeley and Tofel both echoed that the janitor position is not in the budget and they had voted no because of that.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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