Taxpayers question hiring practices for temporary workers at Merrimack Valley
The Merrimack Valley School District hired nine people this summer for temporary work without advertising the positions, and all nine are people with relatives already working in the district or sitting on the school board.
“My concern is this is public money, why weren’t the positions advertised?” asked Louise Andrus, a Salisbury resident who requested information about the positions from school board Chairman Tom Godfrey after hearing rumors about the hirings.
Assistant Superintendent Chris Barry provided the Monitor with a copy of the correspondence between Andrus and Godfrey. Four people were hired for custodial work, four for transportation work and one in the special education program in Boscawen. The hours varied from 15 to 40 weekly and the wages from $7.25 to $12.15 per hour. According to the correspondence, all nine workers are related to someone employed in the district or on the school board. Names of the employees were not provided.
Godfrey said the district was not required to post the positions because temporary jobs are not subject to collective bargaining agreements. The district chooses not to advertise because it wants all the positions to go to former or current Merrimack Valley students, he said. Advertising the positions would require a stricter hiring process to identify the most qualified applicants, which means it’s possible an out-of-district person could get the job, Godfrey said.
People find out about the positions in various ways, including word of mouth or by asking if there are summer opportunities available, he said. Godfrey said he was surprised to learn that some of the workers had relatives in the district when he saw the list because he had been unaware of any relations.
Theodore Comstock, executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, said he was unaware of any state laws that require school positions to be advertised. Any policies on job postings would likely be determined in collective bargaining agreements, he said.
Ken Ross-Raymond, chairman of Salisbury’s board of selectmen, said the decision to not advertise the positions makes him wonder about other district hiring practices. Earlier this week he requested more information about how temporary employees relate to collective bargaining and facts about the hiring of specific employees.
“It at least makes me question practices in the past,” he said.
The Merrimack Valley Support Staff Association’s current contract, which is available online, defines an employee as full-time or part-time non-teacher staff. The only mention of temporary summer employees in the agreement says they must receive a letter of employment indicating their hourly rate, hours to be worked per week and total wages to be paid.
Karen Sheldon, another Salisbury resident, said she doesn’t understand why the jobs weren’t posted when the district’s website says “MVSD employment opportunities are posted online and in local N.H. newspapers.”
“To me, something’s rotten here in Merrimack Valley School District,” she said.
Andrus, the Salisbury resident who filed the request, said the district was very prompt in responding to this and other information requests she has made. She stressed that she acted independently in seeking information about the positions.
“I’m just a taxpayer; I have no kids in school, but I believe in fairness, and a lot of times I hear gossip about the school district and I try to, on my own, find out the truth,” she said.