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Greensburg Salem debates hiring another custodian

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg Salem administrators will obtain statistics over the next few days on how many custodians other school districts need to keep buildings clean.

During a meeting on Wednesday, some school directors questioned whether another custodian needs to be hired at the high school and balked at a proposal to hire one for $21.63 per hour, the rate set by contract.

The board may vote as soon as Wednesday on whether to fill the custodian's position. A janitor resigned a few weeks ago, opening a job.

Director Lee Kunkle noted a starting teacher in the district earns about $1,000 more than the custodian would.

“That, to me, is dead wrong,” Kunkle said.

“There are a number of board members who don't want to hire another person,” Dr. Richard Payha said. “To pay a custodian as much as a first-year teacher? Come on.”

When benefits are included, the custodian would cost the district approximately $78,000 annually, administrators said.

What custodians earn isn't “their fault,” President Ron Mellinger said. The school board endorsed the contract, he said.

Gary Liston, who oversees buildings and grounds, said that if another person isn't hired, he would have the equivalent of 3.5 people doing the same amount of work that 5.5 people did two years ago. At one time, 6.5 custodians maintained the 160,000-square-foot high school, he said.

People want the same level of cleanliness that the buildings had a few years ago, but with fewer custodians, he added.

A substitute custodian is now working at the school, but that person can't stay in the job indefinitely, directors said. One custodian works part time in another school.

Director Jeff Metrosky, who questioned the need to hire the custodian last month, noted that even if the district paid the projected overtime of about $40,000, it would be less than the cost of another employee.

The fact that the contract prohibits the district from mandating overtime could be a problem, Mellinger said.

Seniority is used to determine who works overtime, but often the newest hire gets the added work, Liston said.

Rullo discussions

Solicitor John Scales defended his decision to restrict comments the school board has heard concerning embattled administrator Lisa Rullo.

Scales told school directors their knowledge about the Rullo matter should not extend past what they have heard during two demotion hearings for her.

“The board cannot and will not permit comments ... in its presence outside of the (demotion) hearing process or make any comments until the process is completed,” he said, reading from a statement.

The district risked violating Rullo's 14th Amendment rights under the Constitution by depriving her of property rights — her job — “without due process,” Scales said.

The board is serving as a “quasi-judicial” body because it may have to rule on Rullo's job status, Scales said.

Scales' response came nearly three weeks after more than 75 people packed the school board meeting room, demanding that directors hear their thoughts on the Rullo issue and presenting a petition supporting her.

District officials have proposed demoting Rullo from her $134,996-a-year job as director of student and district services to an associate principal position at the high school at a lesser salary. Rullo took the rare step to demand that her demotion hearings be held in public.

Two demotion hearings were held in November, and the district then canceled one scheduled in December. The school board sat in judgment during the two hearings.

Rullo and the school district have since agreed to have a third party listen to concerns as part of a closed-door, nonbinding mediation session Feb. 21.

“This should not be interpreted as any indication by either (the school district) or Dr. Rullo as to the ultimate merits of the case, but instead as a good-faith effort to explore options,” Scales said.

If the mediator can't resolve the dispute, more demotion hearings may be scheduled, district officials said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 orbstiles@tribweb.com.

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