Published in the August 28, 2015 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Some members of the School Committee were prepared to vote this week on a new policy related to hiring and compensation for volunteer support staff in cooperation with booster organizations. But ultimately committee members decided to stay with their normal practice and lay the policy on the table until their Sept. 8 meeting to allow for a period of public review and comment.
The policy on how to handle booster clubs providing compensation to volunteers such as assistant sports coaches had been the biggest sticking point in a proposed general set of School Committee guidelines for booster organizations.
Booster clubs have long provided part-time volunteer assistant coaches with a “gift” at the end of a sports season in appreciation of their time and efforts. Such gifts were only made if booster funds raised exceeded the amount needed to fund the basic needs of the program.
But the School Department has been concerned about the legality and liability of such an arrangement, maintaining that anyone sanctioned to work with students, whether volunteer or paid by a third party, is by legal definition an employee of the School Department.
After the School Board’s Policy Subcommittee hosted a spirited discussion with booster club representatives last week on the matter of assistant coach compensation, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kim Smith proposed a solution that drew enthusiastic approval from the booster organizations.
At this week’s School Board meeting, Policy Subcommittee chairman Rob Tiro presented a written policy proposal related to volunteer support staff compensation based on Smith’s recommendation.
The policy states that the Wakefield Public Schools bear the responsibility to hire and supervise anyone performing services, paid or unpaid for the Wakefield School District.
The policy aims to provide booster organizations with the flexibility they need while complying with applicable regulations.
“The District will hire a volunteer support staff member with his/her agreement that they can anticipate a gift in the range of $1 to a cap amount subject to booster fundraising.” The hire letter will also stipulate that work hours involving student contact shall not exceed 20 hours per week to avoid any question of benefit eligibility.
At the end of a sports season, the booster organization will provide the Director of Athletics, Health and Wellness with a check payable to the town of Wakefield in the amount that the boosters were able to raise for the purpose of paying the support staff member. The gift will be presented to the School Committee for approval and subsequently payment will be made to the coach or support staff member. The support staff member will be issued a W2 statement at the end of the year.
Asked if the draft policy had been reviewed by Town Counsel Thomas Mullen, Tiro said that Mullen had OK’d a preliminary version but said that all labor questions should go to the School Committee’s labor counsel Jim Toomey. Smith said that Toomey was comfortable with the language.
The School Committee voted to table the policy for two weeks, until its next meeting.
The School Committee approved a new job description and compensation for the School Committee’s clerk.
Labor Relations Subcommittee chairman Thomas Markham outlined the proposed job requirements and compensation. The job description calls for the clerk to attend and take minutes at all regular School Committee meetings as well as subcommittee meetings, among other duties.
School Committee member Christopher Callanan did not feel that it was necessary to have the clerk attend subcommittee meetings.
After some discussion, the committee voted to approve the clerk job description. Callanan voted opposed.
The committee met with new Wakefield Academy Director Jeffrey Boyd who talked about his “entry plan” for the school year ahead. Boyd has been a sixth grade teacher at the Galvin Middle School.
Smith provided an update on the status of an intermunicipal agreement between Wakefield and Reading to establish a POST Academy for the post graduate education of special needs students.
In other business this week, the School Committee:
• Accepted a gift of $750 from the Greenwood PTO for the purchase of modular furniture for the Greenwood School Library.
• Accepted a gift from the Wakefield Warrior Club of a new blocking sled for the football program valued at $6,000. It was noted that the sled is compatible with the new turf fields.