Note: This story was last updated at 7:28 p.m. Feb. 24.
Teaching assistants reacted with concern and indignation last week to a proposal to have a Michigan-based company provide substitute teachers, teaching assistants, and paraprofessionals to Oak Ridge Schools.
Chris Marczak, Oak Ridge Schools assistant superintendent, said the proposal to hire Professional Educational Services LLC, or PESG, would allow current employees to keep their jobs, save money, and help the school system comply with the reporting requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. Marczak said there would be a negligible impact on TAs.
“The only thing that’s going to change is the name of your employer,” he said during a 2.5-hour meeting with teaching assistants and others on Thursday.
But teaching assistants are concerned about their future employment and benefits, including health insurance and retirement. Some said they hadn’t received adequate notice of the proposed change and aren’t being treated with the respect they deserve after years of working for Oak Ridge Schools. Marczak said school administrators, including the human resources department, took notes during the meeting and will respond to the staff’s concerns.
Marczak said the proposal had been previously discussed at the January school board meeting and is still subject to the board’s approval. The Oak Ridge Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the contract with PESG during a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.
Marczak said the school system now has a budget shortfall of about $2 million, and administrators have a duty to be fiscally responsible. Errors made in tracking and monitoring the working hours of substitute staff members could cost as much as $1.2 million in fines under the Affordable Care Act, he said. Under the proposal to be considered by the school board on Monday, PESG would assume ACA responsibility for the employees, which officials said would reduce or eliminate the school system’s liability.
The proposal said that developing an internal solution could cost $117,971, while PESG, which also has an office in Nashville, could provide the service for $36,065. The estimated cost savings range from $214,723 to $380,792, although TAs questioned the amount of the expected savings.
The proposal said Oak Ridge Schools have successfully outsourced two other non-core operational functions: food service and transportation. Benefits have included fiscal and operational efficiencies, costs savings from employer-related benefits, and cost avoidance from general liability, worker’s compensation, and unemployment, the proposal said.
Marczak said there are 71 TAs system-wide, including 31 part-time employees. The proposal to work with PESG could take effect next year if approved by the school board.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the PESG proposal here: PESG Proposal.
The Oak Ridge Board of Education meets at the School Administration Building at 304 New York Ave.