Board member's application for aide position prompts policy change
A Gateway school board member who wants to work in the district as an aide won't be able to if an updated district policy is enacted.
In late June, School Director Valerie Warning, 62, applied to Kelly Services Inc., which fills temporary teacher, secretary, paraprofessional/aide and nurse positions in the district, because she said she misses working with children. However, other board members see her attempt to work in the district as a conflict of interest and are trying to update the policy to prevent it.
If hired, Warning would make $10 per hour as an aide to special education students in any of the district's buildings.
The district budgeted $1.8 million this year for its aides as part of its nearly $32 million staffing budget. The board began using Kelly Services, the district's only contracted staffing agency, in August 2017.
“I don't feel it's a conflict of interest,” Warning said after a recent meeting. “I don't talk with teachers about (board business); there's no personal communication. Everything I would do is just job-related.”
Warning worked as an aide for Gateway before getting elected to the school board in 2015. Her term expires December 2019.
“I have no problem if Val works for Kelly Services. The question is whether she works in the Gateway School District and she's working with teachers, faculty and principals of whom she is also determining salaries, layoffs, votes, budgets,” school director and board Vice President Mary Beth Cirucci said during a recent voting meeting.
School Director Rick McIntyre called the situation an “immediate conflict of interest.”
Rob Caruso, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, said if Warning gets the job, she would have to abstain from voting on any action item related to Kelly Services.
“There are a lot of school board members who have done this,” Caruso said. “But if they participate in the vote, they could be found to be in violation of the Ethics Act.”
Solicitor Bruce Dice said Warning can lawfully work for Kelly Services because the agency writes her paycheck.
“In the literal sense, she is not working for Gateway. I know how it appears … but from a legal standpoint, she could do it. With the change in the policy, she would not be able to do it,” he said.
Under the new policy, a board member could work for any staffing service agency as long as their role was not within the Gateway School District.
Warning, who works as a caregiver for Home Instead Senior Care, said she doesn't need the extra money. She occasionally volunteers for the district.
“I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it because it's a big void. I still have my job that I'm working for, but this would be in addition,” Warning said at the meeting.
The board voted 6-3 in favor of the policy change, which will be on public display for 30 days before the board votes again to enact it. School directors Warning, George Lapcevich and Jack Bova dissented.