June 15, 2008

Split Raising Concerns for Staff

By Roxana Orellana, The Salt Lake Tribune

Jun. 15--MIDVALE -- It's lunch time at East Midvale Elementary School, and the energized chaos of hungry youngsters fills the cafeteria.

As head custodian of the school for the past four years, Scott St. Clair is used to the commotion at this time of day. It's a job he likes and planned to keep.

But pending changes from a voter-approved split of the Jordan School District have classified employees like St. Clair unsure about whether they will have a say in what happens to their jobs.

The district has about 4,000 classified employees, including bus drivers, English learner staff, custodians, secretaries, mechanics, lunchroom staff, information system staff and maintenance.

Some of those employees are nervous because they work for the district and are not assigned to a school.

The law under which Jordan was split provides that all employees assigned to a school, from the principal on down, will work for the district in which their school is located.

Their jobs would be secure for the first year, but it's unknown what will happen once the two districts become autonomous with their own school boards in 2009.

Melinda Colton, spokeswoman for the Jordan School District, said most administrators at the central office are not too worried about their jobs because the office is already understaffed.

Jordan School District Superintendent Barry Newbold said he assumes that anyone not assigned specifically to a school will stay with what will become the west-side district until they leave to work elsewhere or the district decides to downsize.

Debbie Bills, a special education bus driver with the district for 21 years, believes creating a second district means there will be jobs but it's the specifics of salaries and benefits that are a concern.

Gary Martensen, president of the Jordan Classified Professional Association, said jobs and wages have been guaranteed in meetings with the east-side transition team.

"When the district splits, we are guaranteed the same things for a year. We are not worried about the first year. It's that 13th month," Martensen said.

For now, the split process is at an impasse. The transition team representing what will become the new east-side district has called for arbitration to determine how to divide district assets, while the west side has called on legislators to help delay the split until more questions are answered.


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