QCSD, QESPA agree on recruitment, retention plan

By Gary Weckselblatt

The Quakertown Community School District and Quakertown Educational Support Personnel Association (QESPA) have reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a recruitment and retention plan that includes pay increases in affected categories, changes to longevity pay, recruitment bonuses and restructuring the number of hours for some positions.

The Quakertown Community School Board unanimously approved the agreement at its November 11th meeting. QESPA’s membership, which includes approximately 225 full- and part-time employees, including secretaries, food service workers, custodians, maintenance staff and aides, voted in favor of the plan on November 22nd.

The four-year, $1.8 million agreement comes just months after QESPA began a new four-year contract. But QCSD is not immune to factors in the local economy. Businesses up and down Route 309 and along Route 313 are also short-staffed and aggressively recruiting with sign-on bonuses and higher starting wages, further reducing QCSD’s pool of applicants.

Since late June, the district has had 30 resignations or retirements. And staffing shortfalls throughout the school year have been discussed at each Finance Committee meeting since August. QCSD is dealing with shortages of classroom aides (15 percent), cafeteria staff (50 percent) and building custodians (30 percent), in addition to openings among secretaries and building maintenance workers.

“These are challenging times to recruit and retain staff,” Finance Committee chair Keith Micucci said. “We’ve had some healthy discussions with the administration about this and recognized the pay is rather low for certain positions and we bumped up some of those rates.”

Lori Moyer, QESPA’s president, stated, “Human Resources recognized the need to increase wages to improve recruitment and retention for the QCSD support staff. This agreement is an encouraging step toward giving our members the fair and competitive wages they deserve. We are so pleased with the outcome of the vote taken by our association, in which 86 percent of QESPA members said ‘yes’ to accept this agreement. Among other things, all of our members will qualify to receive longevity bonuses starting at 10 years, referral bonuses, and provide many of our members a wage increase and future opportunities to receive wage increases. This is unprecedented, as it is not a contract negotiation year, and we are thrilled to have additional compensation for our members."

The agreement includes:

  • A $500 referral bonus to an employee who refers someone for an advertised vacancy and that individual successfully completes continuous QCSD employment for 12 months.
  • Longevity pay of 10 years ($200), 15 years ($300), and 20 years ($400) for full- and part-time employees.
  • $1 per hour responsibility stipend for full-time secretaries working as the principal’s administrative assistant.
  • $1 per hour stipend for instructional and general aides who hold or obtain a degree or the equivalent of Highly Qualified credentials per Chapter 14,
  • Special Education Services and Programs as defined in PA Code.$1 per hour increase for full-time secretaries.
  • $2 per hour increase for full-time custodians.
  • Hourly starting rate increase for food service helper from $10.97 to $14.00 per hour.
  • Hourly starting rate increase for food service cook from $11.36 to $15.00 per hour.

Click here to view employment opportunities in QCSD.

“Nearly 90 percent of our support staff live right here in Quakertown,” Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said. “They are our taxpayers and they add so much value to the quality education that we have. They are the people you see at the front door of every building. They are the people who keep buildings clean and serve food to our children.”

He said decisions made by the School Board over the past several years have put the district in a “good financial place to take care of our people.”

Board member Jon Kern commended the “collaboration” between the parties involved and thanked everyone for doing “what’s right for the district.”

Mrs. Moyer said the QESPA board - Vice President Erin Haslett, Secretary Mackenzie Baver, and Treasurer and membership coordinator Jennifer Hughes - were “supportive and extremely helpful” in reaching the agreement. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.

She also thanked Bonnie Nieman, Uniserv Representative at Pennsylvania State Education Association, who supported QESPA in this process.

“I received an email from one of our members who told me how this agreement will change her holiday,” Mrs. Moyer said. “Some people are getting enough money where they can now afford childcare, or maybe get an additional Christmas present. Nobody got anything taken away. This is money in their pocket.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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