Nikki McLeslie: Is this best for our kids?
October 19, 2011
To the editor:
I recently resigned from my position as athletic secretary/attendance clerk at Moffat County High School.
Since I resigned, I have received numerous phone calls or people have been asking me what happened when I am seen in public. I decided that now would be the time for me to let you, the public, know what happened.
In the fall of 2010, all of the classified staff — employees who are school secretaries or maintenance workers, including the custodians — of the school district were informed of a 6.5-percent cut in pay. The teachers and administration would take a pay freeze, which later became a 1-percent raise. I can only guess this happened because classified staff are the only employees who are not at the top of the pecking order, or not members of a teachers union.
But I, along with the other classified employees, dealt with the situation because we believed it was necessary.
This past spring, Richard Wildenhaus, who had been the athletic director for two years, requested that his job description be adjusted to athletic director/assistant principal. He was told by Thom Schnellinger that the position would never be that way.Wildenhaus explained that he had no choice but to look for another job that would afford him the ability to perform his duties effectively.
Shortly after their conversation, Richie was offered a position at Fort Morgan High School.
Just a week after Richie resigned, Schnellinger, in a meeting, explained that Richie was "moving on," but the administration agreed to advertise his job as athletic director/assistant principal. Schnellinger was asked in this meeting why we would not offer the position to Richie and attempt to keep him because he was a valuable part of our staff.
Schnellinger said that would not be possible.
I was then informed that at the start of the 2011/12 school year, my duties would also include attendance because a full-time attendance clerk who had retired would not be replaced. I was very concerned and voiced my opinion that the athletic secretary position alone was a full-time job. I even asked finance director Mark Rydberg to look at what my duties as athletic secretary included.
He told me that he really did not care and that was just the way it was going to be.
Then, at the start of the 2011/12 school year, it was decided that all three administrators would be in the second-floor office. I, as athletic secretary/attendance clerk, would be in the first-floor office. I explained that I felt that was not right and that the athletic director, at the very least, needed to be down with me for purposes of communication as athletics and activities pose many issues that need to be discussed with the athletic director.
I was told that just would not happen at this time.
As the school year proceeded, I could not get the work done. I was struggling to complete deadlines as the athletic secretary that were in place by the Colorado High School Activities Association, the state's governing body for high school sports.
When I voiced my concerns to Schnellinger and/or Jeff Simon, I was told that they could "take the work from me and spread it to the other two secretaries in the building," who had already taken on extra duties and responsibilities. I finally dug in my heels and asked for at least a part-time person to come in and help with attendance. At four hours a day/four days a week, this person would not have any health insurance benefits and would be a small financial burden to the school district.
I was told that my concern was taken to the "core" team and that this would not be a possibility, so I simply needed to work more efficiently.
After much discussion with my family, we decided that it just did not make sense for me to continue to work where. It was clear I was no longer valued as an employee.
My question to Schnellinger, as well as the school district, was that it was interesting that when assistant superintendent Christine Villard resigned, Dr. Joseph Petrone knew that he could not do the work of two people and quickly hired a replacement.
I find it very troubling that the school district can take care of the people at the top, but the people that are in the trenches every day taking care of our students are treated so poorly.
Many may question why I am airing this now. I just want the public to know and to ask questions of our school board as well as our administration.
The classified employees should not be taken advantage of by this district by being assigned extra duties and asked to take pay cuts without some type of help or support.
If nothing else, I hope that my leaving will open the door for them to be treated with the respect they deserve.
How many good employees are we going to let walk out the doors of the school district?
I want to thank all of the staff members and students whose support my last few days of work was appreciated so much.
Many brought gifts and hugs to tell me how much I would be missed. Thank you all — it means more than you will ever know.
The administration's claim that every decision is based on the best interests of students is one I question, and so should the taxpayers of Moffat County.
So, is every decision really based on what is best for students?