Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TOP STORY > >PASS back as PCSSD becomes pro-union

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District Board reversed its September action Tuesday night and reinstated the Pulaski Association of Support Staff as bargaining agent for the district’s noncertified personnel.

The quick 4-3 vote demonstrated the union-friendly voting block that before the September school board elections was on the short end of all those 4-3 votes.

The board’s pro-union realignment occurred when Pam Roberts didn’t run for reelection and Tim Clark ran unopposed for her Maumelle position.

Clark has voted consistently with Mildred Tatum, Bill Vasquez and Gwen Williams since that time. When the board was reorganized last month, Tatum replaced Charlie Wood as president, Jacksonville’s Vasquez was elected vice president and Williams was elected treasurer.

PASS president Emry Chesterfield said Tuesday night that he was well pleased with the reinstatement of PASS.

“I’ve been working with some of the board members,” Chesterfield said. “They promised to vote us back in, and they kept their word.”

Chesterfield said the union would now get back to its contract negotiations with the school district.

Wood’s proposed amendment, tightening up the board’s expense reimbursement and equipment use policy for board members, was introduced on the agenda and put aside until the next meeting. It’s likely to fail by the same 4-3 vote, especially because it would prohibit Tatum and Williams from receiving free cell phone use from the district.

The district bought Tatum a Blackberry and bought Williams a phone as well. Williams had an $833 monthly charge in December of 2007, including more than $600 in roaming charges.

Wood’s proposed amendment would disallow reimbursement for cell phones, Blackberries, pagers or similar communications means.

It also disallows Internet access, desktop or laptop computers and associated software, printers, faxes or similar devices.

It also disallows transportation anywhere within Pulaski County.

The amendment also calls for any such equipment already in possession by the board members to be returned to the district immediately.

Receipts would be required to get reimbursement for expenses from out-of-town meetings and conventions.

Board members can get $30 per diem for food. If it’s more expensive than that, they would need to submit receipts, up to a maximum of $60.

Fees, registration, normal and reasonable hotel charges would be allowable for the period required by the workshop or event.

It also allows for round-trip airfare and standard trip insurance fees.

The district would reimburse board members for attending a maximum of two out-of-state meetings or conventions over a 12-month period.

Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers president Marty Nix told the board that the district is losing teachers because they are overworked and because the administration doesn’t back them up in discipline matters, including threats of violence against teachers.

Much of the meeting was spent reassuring parents of Crystal Hills Elementary School students that their children would be well cared for in portable school buildings placed at Maumelle Middle School while the roof of their school is repaired or replaced.
A fire-retardant chemical is believed to have rotted the rafters and decking prematurely.