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Byers says public should have been informed of study

March 10, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The Washington County Board of Education was "very foolish" to accept a controversial consultant's study that would change job titles and pay grades of some employees without giving public notice, board member B. Marie Byers said.

"That was very, very unfair and inappropriate," she said. "I think the educational business has got to be public."

She said the board "voted without all the answers. It set a very poor precedent."

Educational Support Personnel Local No. 1 President Bonnie Parks said she was notified of the Feb. 29 vote at 4:30 p.m. that day.

"I have a problem with that. People did not get a chance to speak," she said.

School Board President Paul Bailey said the board gave enough time before the vote for comment.

The union, which represents about 935 workers, has criticized the School Board's handling of the proposal, which would change the job titles and pay grades of about 233 employees.

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The school board in March 1999 commissioned Hendricks and Associates to conduct a $3,500 reclassification study. Company President Charles Hendricks recommended a "market-based" system he said would make salaries more competitive.

The board received the study at the end of November. On Feb. 29, they discussed the proposal in executive session and later voted 6-0 to accept it in principle.

Parks had urged the board to wait for a comparison study by the National Education Association. She said she believes the study is flawed because it compares the school system to private enterprise.

It will also give raises to a small percentage of the union's workers, mostly those recently hired, Parks said.

Byers, who was out of town when the vote was taken, said it was premature.

The School Board's published agenda did not include the consultant's study. During the Feb 29 meeting, board members amended the agenda to bring the proposal to a vote.

"I still feel we need a parallel study by the NEA," Byers said.

At least two board members agreed with that idea in January and none spoke against it, but Bailey said there is no plan now to seek the NEA's help.

Board member Doris J. Nipps said in January the union's concerns were valid. She said Monday the NEA study, which would allow more union input, would not be completely objective.

The consultant's study was fair, Nipps said.

Board member Herbert J. Hardin, who had favored an NEA study, changed his mind. Human Resources Director Phil Ray told him his staff could not dedicate the time and effort to compile employee surveys, Hardin said.

"They assured us no one would lose money over this," he said.

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