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Support staff at Mars Area to receive supplemental payment

ADAMS TWP — At a Mars Area board meeting Tuesday night, district board members approved an agreement with the Mars Area Education Support Professional Association to provide past service/retention supplemental payments for support staff, a group that includes custodial, maintenance, secretarial and paraprofessional employees.

Support staff hired before the 2022-23 school year will receive a payment of at least $500 and up to $2,000 depending on how long they have worked with the district.

“We’ve had a rough year with staffing, as a lot of businesses have been experiencing, and we’ve been trying to hire people,” said business manager Debbie Brandstetter in an interview. “It’s been a very challenging endeavor for us. We wanted to let our support staff know that we do appreciate them and the work that they have been doing, so there is this supplemental payment.”

The district currently has 14 paraprofessional positions open, three maintenance positions and nine custodial positions open.

A program was also created to give an additional $500 to new hires who are hired in the 2022-23 school year before Jan. 31, and $250 to those who are hired after that date. Paraprofessionals must stay in the role for the remainder of the school year to receive the funds.

A referral supplemental payment will also give $250 up-front to any support staff member who refers someone to a support staff position. If the referred new employee stays the whole year, the person who refers them will receive $250, Brandstetter explained. The amount decreases to $125 in both portions if the new staff member is hired after Jan. 31.

The Mars Area Education Support Professional Association’s contract expires in June.

At the meeting, board members described the supplemental payment as a thank-you to the staff.

“This is a thank-you to our support professionals,” explained board member Anthony DePretis at the meeting. “Thank you very much for all your hard work and dedication, throughout COVID and through the last year.”

Board member Megan Lenz recalled past contract conflicts with the support staff, and said she hopes that the supplemental payment is a “fresh start.”

“I am very hopeful that this is a fresh start, and that they see it’s an almost completely new board, new superintendent, new school solicitor and new business manager,” Lenz said. “We’re very appreciative of the hard work that they do to keep our schools running.”