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School board discusses summer custodian pay

MORRIS – A School District 54 Board member raised concerns this week regarding the costs of summer custodial staff and concerns about an hourly pay increase for returning summer custodians.

“They clean classrooms. I don’t think it’s financially responsible to give them raises when we are cash-strapped,” board member Bonnie Cap said during Monday’s meeting.

She said there would be 100 high school students lined up to be paid $10 an hour, so she didn’t understand why the district was paying $12 on the high end of the hourly wages.

Superintendent Teri Shaw said the summer custodians are paid from the building and grounds fund, not the struggling education fund. The people who were receiving higher pay had been working as summer custodians for several years, she said, so their experience was worth the raise.

“A lot of them are college graduates who have been with Don [Tondini, head of custodial staff] since they were 18,” Shaw said. “This summer is a week shorter due to snow days and we are confident these adults can get the work done.”

Cap responded that she feels the district can get the same work done for less money.

White Oak Associate Principal Chris Popidinski said the crew uses different machinery, including floor machines, large mowing tractors and tools not everyone is familiar with. He said the experience of the returning staff allows the work to be done safely and with little training.

“There is safety involved, yes, they are painting and cleaning, but these people have been trained over the years,” Popidinski said. “It takes time to learn how to use the equipment safely or to prevent not using the equipment properly and having to spend more money to fix an issue created by improper use.”

Shaw said she is confident that if Tondini feels it is important, it is.

“Don has saved a lot of money in the building and grounds fund,” Shaw said. “Don is not going to spend money in a haphazard way. I have confidence he would be fiscally responsible.”

The summer custodial staff consists of Morgan Popidinski at $10 an hour; Joey and Jacob Webb at $10.50 an hour; Katie Dolan and Rielly Sanders at $11 an hour; Justin Zink at $11.50 an hour; and Eva Castro, Dacia Cobbarrubias, Adam and Andrew Tondini, and Lauren Williamson at $12 an hour.

Morgan Popidinski is related to associate principal Popidinski; Adam and Andrew Tondini are related to buildings and grounds supervisor Don Tondini.

The board voted 5-1 in favor of hiring the staff at the proposed wages with Cap voting no and Dave Obrochta absent.

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