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No AC decision on custodial cuts -- Pettibone: ‘Can’t keep going on as always have’

November 14, 2012

Part of crowd at AC meeting. (Photo by Jannaya Andrews)

    Adams Central staff received a reprieve Tuesday evening, at least temporarily, from a proposal that called for a reduction in general leave days for all employees and for custodians to be dropped as 12-month employees.
    Tuesday's Board of Education meeting drew a large crowd as several AC staff members waited to hear Superintendent Mike Pettibone's proposal for cutting costs at the school.
    Pettibone addressed the crowd and board members, saying that with no end in sight to an economic recession that is second only to the depression of the 1930s, changes have to be made.
    "We can't keep doing what we're doing," said Pettibone. "The money's just not there. We just can't keep going on as we always have."
    Under the proposal, employees who work 100-179 days would receive five general leave days; employees who work 180-199 days would receive seven general leave days; those who work 200-220 days would receive eight general leave days; and 12-month employees would receive seven general leave days.
    These days are to be used for personal illness, family illness, and personal business, according to Pettibone, and are not intended to be used as vacation days.
    General leave days would still be allowed to accumulate, up to 130 for 12-month employees, and up to 80 days for all other employees.
    However the biggest controversy wasn't the reduction in general leave days, but the proposed cut in the number of days custodians would work at the school. Under Pettibone's plan, custodians would be reduced from 12-month employees to 190-day employees, continuing only five working days after the last day of school and returning a week or two before classes resume the following school year.
    Under Indiana law, those employees would not be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to Adams Central Attorney Adam Miller.
     Pettibone's proposal calls for the cleaning that the custodial staff normally performs during the summer break to be outsourced to an independent company, at what he believes would be a substantial savings for the school.
    Emotions ran high as several staff members spoke to the board, expressing concern over losing approximately three months of their pay. Most of whom spoke said they understand the position the board is now in, but said they can't afford to not work over the summer and asked the board to keep looking for another way to cut costs.
    "I need my job. I need the money," said an emotional Linda Fowler, a custodian at the school for the past 13-years.
    "I agree with Mike [Pettibone] that we have to change things," said head of maintenance Todd McDonald. "But this outsourcing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I've just got a really bad feeling about all of this."
    Brian Tonner moved to approve the proposal, but the board failed to receive a second from any board members.
    "I'll never vote to put someone out of work," said an adamant Mike Brown. "My first night on the board I had to vote to fire someone and I went home and told my wife I'd never do that again. I think we're rushing this and we need to figure out another way, we need to keep looking."
    Without a second, the motion was tabled.
    "I hope you all know this was not a personal attack on any of you," said Tonner. "It's our job to be fiscally responsible and to do what is best for this school and this community. Maybe this isn't the way, but we still have to figure out where the money's going to come from. There's not one person on this board who wants to take away from you [AC staff]."
    Pettibone agreed with Tonner and reminded the employees that with approximately $250,000 less in the general fund than the school had in 2009, the school is in financial distress and cuts are still going to have to be made.

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