Aides to be outsourced: Who it affects and what it means

Library+aides+are+a+part+of+the+aides+being+outsourced+through+ESS+for+the+2019-2020+school+year.++The+measure+approving+this+was+passed+by+the+school+board+April+18.
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Aides to be outsourced: Who it affects and what it means

Library aides are a part of the aides being outsourced through ESS for the 2019-2020 school year.  The measure approving this was passed by the school board April 18.

Library aides are a part of the aides being outsourced through ESS for the 2019-2020 school year. The measure approving this was passed by the school board April 18.

Ellie Knapp

Library aides are a part of the aides being outsourced through ESS for the 2019-2020 school year. The measure approving this was passed by the school board April 18.

Ellie Knapp

Ellie Knapp

Library aides are a part of the aides being outsourced through ESS for the 2019-2020 school year. The measure approving this was passed by the school board April 18.

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On Thursday, April 18, the Carlisle High School Fowler LGI filled with tense community members as the school board voted whether or not to outsource district aides.

This hot-button issue has been discussed for months at board meetings, all coming down to a vote on April 18, which passed the measure 8-1 (Bruce Clash, head of the personnel committee, being the only board member who voted against the proposal). With this decision passed, several major changes will come into effect for district aides after the 2018-19 school year.

For the past ten years, the district has dealt with a budget gap, and this year the gap was $3 million.  In searching for a solution to the budget gap, the district began exploring the possibility of outsourcing the aides of the district.  

The proposed plan would give the responsibilities of hiring, paying, and giving benefits to the aides to a third party company, Education Solutions Services (ESS). CASD would give ESS money, who would then pay the hired aides based on their hourly rate that they make now.  The district would save money because the aides would receive drastic cuts to their medical coverage that the district would no longer be paying for.

“It is recommended that effective at the end of the day on May 30, 2019, District employed aide positions (consisting of classroom, library, and personal care assistants) be brought to a conclusion,” said the proposition the board approved at the meeting on April 18.  “Impacted employees will be offered a transition package as detailed in the memorandum to the Board Policy and Personnel Committee dated March 15, 2019. Each person interested in working for ESS that completes an employment application will be interviewed for available positions. District aides hired through ESS will be placed on a wage scale based on their current hourly rate with the District.”

Although this change would help to balance the budget, many think that it is not worth it.

“[ESS] cannot fill their positions,” said Kelly Stanley, a long-time worker with the Carlisle school district as an aide and a substitute teacher.  “Sometimes they haven’t even had a substitute for a teacher!”

Statements like these question the reliability of outsourcing services like ESS.  Many community members who have worked with the service, such as Stanley, admit it hasn’t been the quality service that has been projected.

Many aides, parents of students who require aides, and community members came to the board meeting and commented on the need for aides employed by the district. Some argued about the lack of reliability of ESS, the negative impact on the aides due to the lack of medical coverage, and the negative impact on students due to the uncommitted and less-dedicated aides provided by ESS.

Tori Smarr, the mother of two children, including one enrolled in the Life Skills program at CHS, is concerned for the aides in the special education department, as she fears that the quality of care in the department might go down.

“I am very concerned about the possible loss of our qualified and well-trained aides in our special education department,” said Smarr. “Our current special education aides at the high school also put in unpaid time each day by coming in early to make sure students can get into the building and to their classroom as well as staying after school to make sure that every child is put on the correct bus.  The school day runs 7:30-2:30 for them but they usually come in from 7:15-3:00. I don’t feel that outsourcing inspires that kind of loyalty to the district.”

Smarr believes that contracting the aides out will result in those who love their jobs having to leave out of necessity.

“The biggest negative that I see for the aides is the loss of health insurance benefits for their families,” Smarr said. “These ladies are not paid a high hourly wage; however, most of them feel that the medical benefits make up for the low wage, this allows them to stay in a job they love with children instead of seeking a higher paying job elsewhere.”

Carlisle Area School District has attempted to lower costs by outsourcing a variety of positions: substitutes and newer classroom aides, for example, work for Mission One, an outsourcing company.

“The savings come by reduction of those costs [healthcare and retirement],” Shawn Farr, the director of finance for CASD, said. “Employees go out to those companies and are offered a medical coverage that is not as full-covered as ours, so they may pay more.” This has been placed a lot of sadness upon aides, and many are facing the tough decision of whether or not to return in the 2019-2020 school year.

“I think all of us are just extremely disappointed,” said Anne Chaney, an aide at Moorland Elementary School.  “We really fought hard to save our jobs, and unfortunately, in the end, the dollar won. We love what we do, and we love our students. It’s sad and unbelievable, that it ended the way that it did.”

The district will be changed next year, with new aides whose capabilities are being questioned, as well as many other changes, like six fewer teachers, if the board approves its budget in May.

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