Listed under a plethora of “Personnel Items,” to be discussed by Assistant to the Superintendent Robert Harney, was an item set at 10.3 on the agenda. It read:
“Approve the employment of Randy Williams, Sr. as transportation manager. Salary: $100,000. Effective: To be determined. This is a new position established October, 2014.”
It was the only role listed under “Employment-Administrative.” It caught the eye of several persons who chose to use the “Public Comment to Board Action Items” item on the agenda to voice their concerns.
First to the podium was Pinetree Drive-resident Joe Ferraro. He questioned the accompanying price tag.
“I thought that was the point of getting rid of everybody,” said Ferraro, who asked what the person prior to the addition of First Student, Inc. was earning. Superintendent Dr. David Zerbe said that the prior salary was $96,000, or $4,000 less than Williams would be earning in the same job.
“It just seems goofy and misleading,” noted Ferraro.
Joe Bickelman, of Audubon, was next to question the board. He was told at a Human Resources meeting the previous salary was $95,000. But, his questions did not stop there.
Bickelman listed a laundry list of duties the new transportation manager would no longer need to do, thanks to the outsourcing of the department to First Student. He listed that the new manager would NOT need to:
· Operate a garage
· Oversee bus repairs
· Order parts
· Operate bid specs
· Review/authorize payroll
· Manage mechanics department
· Interview, hire new drivers
· Train new drivers
· Find substitute drivers
· Maintain driver seniority lists
· Book extracurricular activity rides
· Manage driver mileage reports
· Purchase orders for supplies
· Coordinate bus evacuation drills
as the duties were covered by First Student for the Methacton School District.
“This person is to make four or five thousand greater than the prior one made,” he said. Bickelman also noted that since the addition of First Student, no parent had been in to complain to the school board about the new transportation operations, making him question the need for a new manager.
The district has been without a transportation manager since October of 2014.
However, that was not the extent of Bickleman’s comments. He also had light to shed on the hiring involved in the role. If “Randy Williams’” name looks familiar to LP TAP readers, it should. (Click here to read about his presentation and updates.)
“Williams is the general manager from First Student, who sold First Student to the district,” said Bickelman. “Now, he is being hired by the district.”
While the remark got the audience grumbling and gasping, the resident was still not finished.
“Before this position was advertised, the job was offered to Marybeth Pastino,” said Bickelman. “She is the assistant in the transportation department.”
The job, according to Bickelman, was offered to Pastino for just $59,900 per year, a stark difference from the listed six-figure salary noted for Williams.
“She said that would be a cut in pay when she considered everything,” said Bickelman. “She said she could do the job for $70,000.”
Pastino, who currently is listed as the “First Student Dispatcher and Router” under the Methacton.org website’s Transportation Department page, has worked for the district for more than 25 years.
“She knows the software and the district like the back of her hand,” said Bickelman. However, according to Bickelman, the district’s Stuart Whiteleather and Harney told her the amount of $70,000 “would be tough to get board approval for,” and declined to offer her the job at that rate.
Bickelman took his seat noting he “just like[d] to be transparent, that’s all.”
Candy Allebach, of Eagleville, completed the trio of complaints noting that a law suit might be on the district’s hands if they do not operate with caution in this matter.
“The fact is, you are offering a man $100,000, when you have a woman that has worked for 25 years for this district,” said Allebach. “That is loyalty, and you won’t pay her $70,000.”
She said the difference in offers is a direct violation of the law.
“Offering $30,000 more to a gentleman that has only been working with this district for a few months, when you won’t pay $70,000 to a [former] driver of 25 years, who knows the school district, the parents, the employees … you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Allebach said that for a district that was “not in the transportation business,” it seemed a high salary regardless.
“It is outrageous that you would increase a salary for a man who came with First Student, is leaving First Student for this school district, when we are a district ‘no longer in the transportation business,’” she said. “You need to explain to the public why he is worth it.”
She urged the board to slow its decision.
“You need to consider this,” she said. “This looks really bad. This is discrimination, clear and simple.”
When the vote came time for discussion, the board opted to take an executive session to discuss personnel items in the middle of the meeting. After a roughly 30-minute break, the board returned to the table announcing they would be tabling the hiring of Randy Williams until a better job description could be released.
“Unlike some statements that have been made earlier, it is my understanding that, having spoken to the individuals involved, the job description was changed from the time the first candidate was interviewed to what a current understanding of the position will be,” said District Solicitor Frank Bartle. “This position will be including additional duties.”
In what Bartle called an “abundance of caution,” the board decided to table the matter until it could “specifically detail the job description within the district.”
“If applications are received from individuals, they will be interviewed, then recommended to the board in a future meeting,” said the solicitor. “The difference was in the job as it went from its original post to current, with additional duties, and that was not discussed earlier.”
No vote was held on the hiring of Williams, as the job will be rewritten, posted and interviews conducted again prior to the board hearing any recommendation for the job.