During a recent meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education, Harlan Middle/High School custodian Tony Hubbard asked about the possibility of reclassifying maintenance positions to insure they are adequately paid for the work they perform. Hubbard distributed a portfolio which included a list of his duties, evaluations, letters from his peers and a chart marked with his salary and the salary of other maintenance workers in the school district.
“I’m a simple hard working man,” said Hubbard. “I feel a hard day’s work deserves a good day’s pay. I am the lowest paid custodian in the school district. If I have to say so myself, I believe I’m the hardest working custodian you have.”
Hubbard said a custodian was recently hired and according to the classification chart it will take him 15 additional years to earn what this custodian began working for just three months ago.
“I’m asking is there any way possible to do something for me. I don’t think this is fair,” said Hubbard. “It’ll take me 15 years to make the same pay he is getting today — the first day he got here, whether he could screw in a light bulb or not. You can look at my paperwork, you’ll see I’m doing a good job for this system.”
Evaluations presented to the board showed Hubbard was rated satisfactory (highest rating available) in every aspect of his position for school years 2010 through 2012. In a letter written by former principal Stacy Noah on Sept. 12, she states, “I can attest to his (Tony’s) excellent work ethic and strong attendance record. Working as a custodian in a school setting, he has always exhibited professionalism and pride in his assigned areas. In all honesty, I can say that he has been the very best custodian ever in the middle school. He takes his employee duties very seriously and performs at an extremely high level. Our school is a better place because he is an employee.”
Board member Matt Nunez questioned if the employee recently hired had more education than Hubbard causing him to be paid at a higher rate of pay.
“I don’t think the educational requirements or certifications are different for any of the (custodian) positions,” said Superintendent David Johnson. “The difference is in the skills needed to do the job. When we go through the interview process, we determine if they have the skills for the job they are being hired for. If we find someone is — we hire them. If we find they don’t — we don’t hire them.”
Hubbard said the pay scale being used was formed in 1997 and has not been updated except when the minimum wage was increased.
“I do agree we need to review this,” said Nunez. “The scale is barely above minimum wage.”
Johnson said the scale has been amended each year for the past three to four years. He said it has also been that amount of years since certified work classified salary schedules have been increased.
Hubbard said he previously worked approximately five years in maintenance, was a department head at Walmart for a period of time, was a caretaker for his parents for a number of years and served seven years in the United States military. His father was a custodian at the school for approximately 18 years also.
Board member Will Miller asked Hubbard if he had tried to move up the classification scale and apply for the maintenance technician position.
“No sir. I asked Mr. Johnson when I first started if I could be considered for that position if it opened up, but since I have been here I have found the person who gets that position doesn’t last long,” said Hubbard. “I’m like everyone else I need a job. I put in a hard day’s work every day. I take my job very seriously.”
Hubbard suggested he be given credit for his military service, which would allow him to be reclassified to a higher pay grade.
“When you are in the military the first thing you learn to do is clean,” said Hubbard.
Board chairman Joe Meadors told Hubbard he had no doubt he was an excellent employee. He said what the board did for him will have to affect several other employees as well.
“We’ve got to be careful,” said Meadors. “The entire board would like to help all our employees. We work within budget constraints — we only have so much money. Some of the things we did last year to save money has added a burden to the custodian staff. I don’t doubt anything you say. We just have to look at this long-term for all employees. There are more employees who would like to come and address the board because they don’t feel like they are being paid enough. They haven’t had a raise in four or five years. …You have alerted us to a situation that needs to be addressed. I promise you we will look into this. It may not be immediate help. It may be something we look at over the next eight or 10 months getting to our next budget year.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org