Sunday, May 10, 2009

Security Guard ⇒ Youth Advocate

And you thought the age of political correctness was over!

Let the DAMN Meeting Begin
At tomorrow night' s (May 11, 2009) meeting of the School Board (excuse us, it's probably more politically correct to call it the Affirmation of District Administration Management Needs -- or A DAMN! meeting), a seemingly innocuous agenda item appears, entitled " Youth Advocate Job Description and FTE". It's buried down in the meeting agenda---we almost missed it ourselves.

Yet it reflects a fundamental change in the way of handling security at the high school. Something we're all pretty sensitized to. Certainly, change is in order. But this represents a radical change that should NOT be simply rubber stamped into existence. We need to think this one through. A hint of malingering odor is detected from the smell test.

Instead of just forging ahead with a job description at the HR committee...shouldn't the issue be discussed FIRST in public forum by the school board where the public can watch it , attend it, or obtain a video copy?

Once again, this "idea" is a plan that is ready to be rubber stamped, with opportunity for 3 minutes of public input only IF you are savvy and engaged enough to read the meeting agenda and realize that something very important is at stake here.

An audible emission of intestinal gases is still a ...
When we first read this situation report, our first thought was that the parallel here to the world of water treatment is both ironic and comical. Nobody likes to talk about poop. We live in a 'flush and forget' society. What began as Sewage Treatment works has slowly morphed into Wastewater Treatment and even to Water Pollution Control management. There is even one local community that has named its facilities the "Water Recycling Center" . Look...we get that. Totally. But let's do it with a conscious focus and do it with some structure and abide by some rules. Let the public in on exactly what we're doing. Let's give them more than just a slim shot at providing input, and let's tell them exactly what it means in terms of costs. Hey...what do you know? The community might even get on board with the DAMN idea. But if you try to slip one by the goalie...even unintentionally...the reputation of the A DAMN board will only continue to grow.

What's in a Word? Morphing from Security Guard to Youth Advocate
So we start with Security Guard.
Security: means freedom from danger, risk, etc.; safety.
Guard: means to give protection; keep watch; be watchful. consider 'Youth Advocate'
Youth: we get means 'kids"
Advocate: means: one that supports or promotes the interests of another

So, we're transitioning from having trained security guards being watchful over and protecting safety to employees whose role is to support or promote the interests of the kids? Huh? We're all for building rapport with the kids, but security does not equate to social work. Those are two very distinct issues.

Security Guard? Youth Advocate? Social Worker?
Things get more disconcerting when you look at the job description for these "Youth Advocates". Are these "requirements" really in line with what's needed at the high school? Here are just a few tidbits:

  • Must have experience in similar backgrounds as the youth who are being served.
  • Must have experience in or full understanding of urban cultures, diverse cultures, and/or large high schools.
  • Must have knowledge and appreciation for adolescent development and a desire to serve young people.
  • Must have completed or willing to be trained in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.
SP-EYE: This seems like pretty specific experience...whose got it? Does that mean that anyone who graduated from like Deerfield High need not apply? And do they have to have a degree? taken a class? in adolescent development? What's that mean? And the only REAL training required is "Non-Violent Crisis Intervention"??? Hello? Have you BEEN to high school lately?

Or, how about this from the Essential Duties And Responsibilities section of the position description. Doesn't this sound more like a Social Worker? If we can get this kind of social work for $13.27/hr....WOW!
  • Identifies, monitors, and assists students who may be disengaged from school.
  • Meets with students who are chronically late to school.
  • Contacts home and/or makes home visits to help identify issues affecting poor attendance.
  • Refers students to community agencies or student services as needed.
  • Participates in teacher-student, parent-student, and student-student mediation scheduled throughout the day to identify and resolve issues causing disruption within the school and during class time.
  • Builds relationships through presence, visibility, and student engagement during non-classroom time at school (before and after school, lunch time).

SP-EYE- WOW! And NO social worker training is required? These people can --and are supposed to--conduct home visits, mediation, make referrals to community services? Local 60...are you seeing this? SPEA...isn't this more suited to someone with special licensing or training?

  • Develops and maintains an awareness of potential neighborhood rivalries or conflicts, potential gang related issues, and other community issues that may impact schools.
  • Intervenes in altercations between students, staff and public as needed to maintain safety and security.

SP-EYE--Ah...the "intervening in altercations" part...that would be the non-violent intervention kind...right? Just speak firmly and logicallylike Spock and they'll stop altercating...right? Or is it a Jedi mind trick kind of thing? Oh...and they have to become knowledgeable in gang activities, too? And we're going to get this for $13.27 per hour????.

What's it going to cost?
The plan is to discontinue the practice of hiring two private contractor security guards. Instead, we'll create two positions, called Youth Advocates, with the funding coming from what historically was used for the security guards.

Let us be the first to state this CLEARLY. Economy bad. Creating positions good. Got that? We like the idea of creating jobs. It's the rest of it that is giving us some heartburn (or was it those peppers in the omelet this morning?).

If one looks at the biweekly check sees that we spend about $2,500-2,600 every 2 weeks. That means about $1270 per week....which translates to about $31.25 per hour. Divide that by 2 security guards, and you get about $16.00 hr that we pay for them. We do NOT pay for benefits. Those are paid out of what we pay the contractor.

The plan (which hasn't been approved by Local 60) is to hire 2 full time (FTE) "Youth Advocates" at a beginning salary of $13.27/hr (again, IF Local 60 agrees). But that doesn't include benefits which typically cost the district (taxpayers) about 50% of salary costs. That means 'bennies' will cost another $6.63 per hr...for a grand total of $19.90/hr. $19.90 per hour X 2 Youth Advocates X 80 hrs per two weeks comes to a cost of $3,184, which represents an increase of 22.5%.

So...let us get this right. The national economy is still faltering, the state budget has gone down the point-of-use waste recycling outlet, and management wants to increase the cost of doing business by 22.5%???? Hold on to that thought while you learn the rest of this scheme.

And if we decide this isn't going to work, we then have to cut positions (people) and then pay unemployment? HELLO! Can you say "TRIAL BASIS"? Did you think to maybe do this as an LTE (no benefits) initially? Those are both fiscally sound procedures for handling untried plans.

Dear school board:

Let's put this in simple terms.

Economy bad. Generating jobs, good.
Costing more not so good.
Job descriptions that sound like 'Social Worker' but paid far less not good.
Plan needs more thought and public input.

In other words, and please forgive our concerted tact avoidance, proceeding with an affirmation of the Decorum Maintenance Coordination plan known as "Youth Advocates" without additional public input represents an act of cranial-rectal inversion. The plan is factually unencumbered, and fecally plenary.

Got all that? We now need to proceed expeditiously to conduct an unplanned re-examination of recent food choices.