The Bethlehem Area School District Board of Directors voted 5-4 on Monday night to break with tradition and approve the outsourcing of hiring the substitute teaching staffs to a for-profit company.
Directors Rogelio Ortiz, Angela Sinkler, Sudantha Vidanage, and Basilio Bonilla Jr. dissented.
As a result of the vote, substitutes will now become the employees of the Substitute Teacher Services, an Aston, Pa.-company, not the district.
The two-year contract is slated to begin next school year and will cost BASD 28 percent of the wages paid the subs.
While Monday night's vote was tight, so were director's lips, who offered no comments for or against the measure after bringing the tabled motion up for vote from last month's regular board meeting by a 6-3 margin. As a result of the approval, substitute teachers will now have to undergo new background checks and obtain new references, according to discussion from January's meeting.
And that could be just the start of employee outsourcing at the district.
Dozens of cafeteria employees attended Monday night's meeting to voice their importance and displeasure with current contract negotiation with the district.
Some of them carried cardboard signs that read "LOYALTY = NOTHING," among many other sayings. Speaking on behalf of the lunch ladies was Christine Miller, who told the board she has been employed by the district for 17 years, the last dozen as a cook at Freedom High School.
"We have built a relationship with the kids over the years," she told the legislative body. "We have made proposals that would save a lot with our health care and with the new employees in the district."
Miller said "she is hopeful" the two sides will reach an amicable agreement that will allow the district to save money and the workers to keep the benefits they have earned over the years.
"While we are trying to meet the district's goals of saving money, we are committed to keeping our jobs and we will fight any proposals that would contract out our jobs to other companies."
President Michael Faccinetto remained tight-lipped in response, saying only that "the board and administration continues to negotiate and believes there will be a settlement shortly."