Brandywine Heights Educational Support Professional Association President Carol Bortz feels the School Board has turned a deaf ear to parents, teachers, community members and paraprofessionals.
Earlier this month, the Brandywine School Board passed the motion of the intent to contract with School Operation Services for a three-year period to outsource the paraprofessionals in the district. BHESPA, the support staff union, has 20 days to match the savings of the outsourcing company.
With the 20-day deadline approaching on June 5, BHESPA has not yet responded to match the savings, according to Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Martin Handler. Previously, Handler told The Patriot that the primary area the district will see savings is in pensions. They will also see savings in health care costs. The district anticipates to save about $700,000 over the three years of the contract.
While Bortz is encouraging residents to attend the June 3 board meeting, Handler said nothing regarding outsourcing is scheduled to happen at the June 3 meeting. Handler said a special meeting will need to be held but that has not yet been scheduled.
Bortz expressed her concerns to The Patriot.
“The company has only been in existence for two years. Profit to SOS from BHASD bid is $110,000 per year after operating expenses including staff. That is tax dollars going from the district, to Malvern,” wrote Bortz in a Letter to the Editor.
The Patriot contacted Brandywine Heights School District to verify those numbers.
“There is no place in the Request for Proposal that shows the profit to SOS,” wrote Director of Business Operations Nancy Krauss, also Brandywine Heights School Board treasurer. “The letter writer must have made some assumptions to come up with $110,000.”
Krauss explained that $110,000 cannot be correct as based on the SOS proposal the wages for the first year would be $430,376, plus FICA (7.65%) $32,924, unemployment compensation (.074254 first time $8,500 in wages) $25,148, and worker compensation insurance estimated at $8,607 (2% payroll); for an estimated payroll cost of $497,155.
According to Krauss, the SOS first year cost for BHASD would be $572,992, approximately $76,000 more than the estimated payroll costs.
“In addition to payroll costs, SOS would have costs for liability insurance, staff training, and supervision costs, including management time and travel,” wrote Krauss in an email.
Bortz also shared with The Patriot her concern that present employees will receive a 10 to 15 percent pay cut and loss of all benefits. She noted that para’s now receive a $9.50 starting wage.
Krauss responded that the SOS proposal shows that employee hourly wages will be 90 percent of their current rate.
“Because the para-professionals would be employees of the contractor (SOS) and not the public school district, they will be eligible to collect unemployment over the summer months,” wrote Krauss.
Krauss said that according to the PA Unemployment Compensation website the UC benefit would be approximately half of the employee’s normal wages.
“This would more than cover the 10 percent decrease in hourly wage,” wrote Krauss.
Krauss provided an example.
“Para-professional currently at $9.50/hour working 6 hours per day for 181 days = $10,317. Under SOS contract that employee would make $8.55/hour working 6 hours per day for 181 days = 9,285, $1,032 less than current. But, would be eligible for unemployment compensation estimated at $1,282 (10 weeks of 30 hours at half of their 8.55 hourly rate).”
Krauss also noted that there would be no loss of medical benefits for the 35 six-hour per day para-professionals, because they currently do not receive medical benefits.
Bortz also wrote, “Nowhere in bid does SOS demonstrate how it will IMPROVE standards and support for students. Why would Brandywine jeopardize the high quality of education the para’s now give to students? Why would Brandywine risk a $1M+ contract on a new and unestablished company?”
Krauss responded, “The district is not seeking to outsource para-professionals for improved services. The purpose is to provide the same level of services at a reduced cost to tax payers. The proposal requires SOS to give first consideration to the school district’s existing para-professional staff.”
In response to concerns about Brandywine entering a $1M+ contract on a new and unestablished company, Krauss wrote, “The district has had a very positive experience with SOS as management consultant for the district’s food service program.”
Another contention for Bortz is a proposed 3 percent pay increase for administrators that is included in the proposed budget but Handler explained that that pay raise has not been settled yet.
Bortz concluded her letter with the following.
“Please support the highly qualified paraprofessional’s that are presently employed by the district. 90 percent of them live in the district. They are your neighbors, friends, and family,” wrote Bortz. “Please attend the June 3 Board meeting and let the Board members know this is not a good plan.”