Schools to spend up to $2.1 mil­lion on temps

Aba­cus agency to pro­vide as many as 195 sup­port po­si­tions

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­news.com

St. Mary’s school board mem­bers ap­proved at their Aug. 30 meet­ing to spend up to $2.1 mil­lion an­nu­ally with Aba­cus Corp. based in Bal­ti­more. The con­tract brings in an es­ti­mated 195 tem­po­rary school em­ploy­ees for po­si­tions such as sub­sti­tute food ser­vice staff and parae­d­u­ca­tors.

The $2.1 mil­lion “is an es­ti­mated cost as­sum­ing that all 195 were em­ployed for a spec­i­fied num­ber of hours dur­ing the year, their ap­pli­ca­ble rate of pay” and a tem­po­rary ser­vice fee of 26.5 per­cent, Tammy McCourt, pub­lic schools’ as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of fis­cal ser­vices and hu­man re­sources, said in an email Mon­day.

“We started con­tract­ing out our tem­po­rary ser­vices in 2012,” Di­rec­tor of Hu­man Re­sources Dale Far­rell said at the Aug. 30 meet­ing. He said the con­tract oc­curred when the Af­ford­able Care Act went into ef­fect, and school staff “had to fig­ure out how to com­ply … and pro­vide ser­vices to stu­dents and schools.”

The av­er­age num­ber of tem­po­rary staff in any school build­ing “would be very skewed, as many of the af­ter-school pro­grams, which are only lo­cated at a hand­ful of schools, are sup­ported by Aba­cus staff,” McCourt con­tin­ued.

Aba­cus em­ploy­ees fill po­si­tions such as com­puter sup­port spe­cial­ist assistants, sub­sti­tute bus at­ten­dants, en­hanced sup­port providers and parae­d­u­ca­tors as well as sub­sti­tute

safety and se­cu­rity assistants, sub­sti­tute food ser­vice work­ers and sub­sti­tute build­ing ser­vice work­ers, McCourt said.

“For most of th­ese po­si­tions, it is not fi­nan­cially pru­dent to hire per­ma­nent school dis­trict em­ploy­ees, as they are fil­ing a tem­po­rary gap in ser­vice to sup­port our full time po­si­tions,” she said.

Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of St. Mary’s County Pres­i­dent Jill Morris said last week she and other mem­bers don’t sup­port hir­ing tem­po­rary work­ers, although she ac­knowl­edged that hir­ing full-time em­ploy­ees can be ex­pen­sive.

Staff who are “fully in­vested and en­gaged are bet­ter for the stu­dents,” she said, adding that staff would then have a bet­ter sense of be­long­ing to the school com­mu­nity.

Morris said school staff and ed­u­ca­tion as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers have en­gaged in on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the need for tem­po­rary work­ers, and she cred­its McCourt’s work of “not try­ing to con­tinue th­ese po­si­tions.” The union pres­i­dent said hir­ing 33 new full-time staff in the last bud­get cy­cle was progress in the right di­rec­tion.

For po­si­tions in­clud­ing those who help stu­dents with spe- cial needs, “the num­ber of stu­dents re­quir­ing th­ese ser­vices may vary from year to year,” McCourt said. An Aba­cus em­ployee has the op­por­tu­nity to use the po­si­tion as “a step­ping stone to fu­ture full-time em­ploy­ment within our depart­ment of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Morris said hir­ing full time staff is “a bet­ter, long-term in­vest­ment” in­stead of hir­ing tem­po­rary staff. She said it’s im­por­tant to “buy into the big­ger pic­ture of in­vest­ing in the kids … and the safety and se­cu­rity of the kid­dos.”

Aba­cus em­ploy­ees go through back­ground checks, as co­or­di­nated with the schools’ depart­ment of safety and se­cu­rity, McCourt said.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tions vary for the dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, such as a com­puter sup­port spe­cial­ist as­sis­tant po­si­tion re­quir­ing a high school diploma and six months of IT ex­pe­ri­ence, or a parae­d­u­ca­tor II re­quir­ing an as­so­ciate’s de­gree or “Para Pro cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” she said.

Hir­ing Aba­cus staff can help spread school bud­get dol­lars fur­ther be­cause the staffing would oc­cur on an as-needed ba­sis, McCourt said.

She said there “is no perma- nent com­mit­ment be­ing of­fered by either party,” but can re­sult in “the un­der­stand­able turnover of tem­po­rary staff from year to year.”

Aba­cus re­quested a 26.5 per­cent markup to cover ex­penses such as in­sur­ance, em­ployee train­ing and back­ground checks, Vic­to­ria Mayle, pub­lic schools’ pro­cure­ment co­or­di­na­tor, said at the board meet­ing.

Board mem­ber Jim Davis said the 26.5 per­cent markup is “quite low, very low.”

“Ac­tu­ally it’s lower than it was in re­cent years,” Mayle said. “We were pay­ing 27.12 per­cent. When there is com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place they sharp­ened their pen­cils and brought it down for us.”

Far­rell

Davis

McCourt

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