By Melissa Fales
Committee votes to reinstate right of first refusal clause into contract specifications
Ross Kiely, a labor union representative with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1459, and a handful of First Student school bus drivers attended the May 25 meeting of the Ware School Committee to ask the committee to reinstate a right of first refusal clause for current drivers into the bid specifications for the next school bus transportation contract. “In the bid specifications, there appears to be an inadvertent omission of recognition of the service the existing drivers have given to the Ware Public Schools,” said Kiely. “You have a proven set of drivers who have passed muster within the school district.”
Andy Paquette of the Management Solution noted that the clause had been included in the previous contract. However, according to Paquette’s notes from a Negotiations Subcommittee meeting, the subcommittee wanted that clause removed along with another clause about compensation. Paquette said both clauses were nixed from the bid specifications because the subcommittee considered them “outdated”. While Paquette said it would be easy to amend the bid specifications to include the clause, he warned the committee about accepting Kiely’s request. “We are walking a very fine line allowing the vendor to develop the specifications,” he said.
Kiely said his request was not unusual and that such clauses were “routinely agreed to” by school districts. Kiely also noted that he does not represent First Student, or any other bus company. “I’m not a vendor,” he said. “I won’t be submitting a bid. I’m just an agent for the drivers.”
The committee unanimously approved reinstating the clause offering all current bus drivers a first refusal option for employment.
Additionally, Paquette said he had received a question from a possible vendor about the district’s current collective bargaining agreement and compensation package between UFCW Local 1459 and First Student. In response, Paquette said he would be sending copies of the collective bargaining agreement to all vendors who had picked up a bid package. The committee voted to add a clause into the bid specifications stating that the vendor must provide a compensation package that is comparable to the current collective bargaining agreement between First Student and UFCW Local 1459. Negotiations Subcommittee Chair Brian P. Winslow questioned whether the committee had the right to make such a request. “What if a non-union vendor is bidding?” he asked. Paquette said it was within the committee’s purview to make such a request. A majority of the committee voted to include the clause, with Winslow voting against it.
Eugene Rich commended for Junior Prom effort
Winslow congratulated teacher Eugene Rich for his work coordinating and supervising the Junior Prom which was held at Spencer Country Inn May 20. Winslow, who chaperoned the event, said Rich did an outstanding job and the event was a success. “The students danced all night long,” said Winslow. “That’s how you judge a good dance.”
District will accept School Choice students on a space-available basis for 2011-2012
The committee voted to accept School Choice students from other districts on a space-available basis for the 2011-2012 school year. Superintendent Mary-Elizabeth Beach said the only grade that does not have any space to accept School Choice students is Kindergarten. Winslow asked whether the district should invest in advertising in order to attract out-of-town students. Beach said the district had advertised in the past and didn’t believe it had much impact. Beach added that children of out-of-town faculty and staff would be given priority for any School Choice openings.