Custodians are concerned about changes
by Maddy Houk | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 08, 2013 | 2134 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Custodians in the Patterson Joint Unified School District are concerned about recent re-assignments on local campuses and addressed the school trustees at the Monday, Aug 5 meeting.

David Hernandez, a custodian at Creekside Middle School, said the board should make the final decision on the custodian transfers and not Phil Alfano, superintendent of schools.

Hernandez went on to state that in California Education Code 3505-C, Alfano has the power to assign and transfer district employees such as teachers, but not classified employees, which the custodians are. Hernandez said teachers have expressed concerns and are not in favor of the reshuffling and principals “see no logic to it.” He said the majority of custodians are frustrated, irate and confused as to why they would be re-assigned after many years of employment at a specific school site.

Two other custodians, Carmen Virgen and Rose Faria, also addressed the board. Virgen expressed concern about being the lone custodian on her school site after school hours, while Faria was concerned that the campus changes were happening close to the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 12.

“I wish we had a little more time to prepare,” Faria said. “This should have been done at the start of the summer — now we have only a few days to get ready.”

The three spoke in the public comment period of the meeting on the non-agenda item. By law, the board members may not enter into discussion or take action on the items not previously published on the agenda.

Mike Reed, a custodian at Las Palmas School, did not speak at the meeting, but expressed concern about the changes. He said he has been Easter Bunny, Santa, Cat in the Hat, and has done all things — like take a whipped cream pie to the face — at Las Palmas. He not only keeps a clean campus, but also is a friend to the students and helps to build community there.

“I am Mr. Mike to the students — not a janitor or custodian,” Reed said. “This is my family. Is this what is best for the children?”

Alfano said after the meeting that construction and remodeling on school sites this summer is winding down.

“The construction is winding down, so we wanted to make the changes now rather than waiting until the school year started,” Alfano said. “The other reason we wanted to do this is we wanted to make sure all the employees are trained and learn all aspects of different school sites.”

Alfano cites the collective bargaining agreement between CSEA and the district which says “An employee may be transferred by the superintendent or his or her designee for reasons other than punitive, based on the justifiable needs and best interests of the district, provided that such transfer shall not result in loss of pay or benefits to the employee. The employee must be given a minimum of five workdays notice before the transfer date and if requested, a written explanation must be given to the employee.”

Earlier in the day the custodians met with Alfano and other district officials and aired concerns. After the meeting with district officials, the custodians met with California School Employee Association representatives.

Gloria Pinedo, president of the local chapter of the CSEA, said she checked with the CSEA counsel and found no grievable actions against the district. Also, more transfers to different sites have been past practice from other classifications such as para-educators and food service workers, Pinedo added.

“I know change is difficult, but as I indicated to the custodial staff, we need to be positive and take this opportunity to grow in areas within the job and site” Pinedo said.

Both Pinedo and Alfano added that the district plans to add a custodial supervisor in the future and the more experience a custodian has the better understanding they will have when the position becomes available.

“The final message of the meeting was one needs to be professional regardless of the school site they are assigned to work at,” Pinedo said. “With time, some will see this as an opportunity for growth and enhancement in this district, or any other for that matter.”

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com.

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