School administrators file grievance for work during supposed day off after Sandy

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OCEAN CITY — Administrators in the Ocean City school district have filed a grievance against the school district for being asked to report to work on Friday, Nov. 2 when the school district was closed for five days in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  

Administrators were asked to check on their respective buildings in preparation for the students return on Monday, Nov. 5. At the end of a Wednesday, Nov. 14 school board meeting, board President Brenda Moiso announced that the board was going to hold an executive session for the purpose of discussing the grievance, among a few other issues.  

Tom Campo, president of the seven-member Ocean City Administrators Association said that the language in the administrators’ contract prohibits him from discussing the grievance until the matter is settled.

“It’s confidential and we can’t talk about it,” he said, adding that the union would prefer that Superintendent Kathleen Taylor make a statement for the union to react to first. “Our group has for many, many years stayed out of the limelight. We do not like to do business in public.”

Campo said he was “confident” that things would be settled in a positive manner. Taylor referred all questions to board President Brenda Moiso.

Moiso said she could not discuss details of the grievance nor could she say what was discussed in executive session after the board meeting. She said she could discuss what happened behind the scenes preceding the call that went out asking the administrators to work on Friday, Nov. 2.

“I received a phone call from Dr. Taylor on Wednesday, Oct. 31 and she told me that we would not be able to open the schools to students until Monday the 5th of November,” said Moiso. “She also told me about displaced students and staff and the unknown condition of the buildings. It was her suggestion to bring the administrators in on Friday the 2nd to ‘go over’ their respective buildings and get them ready for the students for Monday.”

Moiso said Taylor told her this would take “only a few hours,” but she thought it was important for the administrators to perform a check.

“Dr. Taylor did not ask them to come in on a weekend nor were they asked to come in on a holiday, at night or in the middle of the storm,” Moiso said. “Friday would have been a regular work day had we not been hit by the hurricane. I told her I thought it was a great idea and go ahead and make the call.” 

The intent, she said, was “simple.”

“We wanted to make the schools as close to ‘normal’ as we could by Monday, so that the students and staff would be comforted by the fact that not everything in their world was shattered,” Moiso said. “We just wanted to bring some normalcy back to their lives. It was a very stressful week and continues to be stressful for many folks so severely affected by this storm. Some of these students and staff lost their homes; their parents lost their livelihoods and watched in horror from afar as the news crews aired pictures of destruction not only to Ocean City, but also of the Jersey Shore.

“I can tell you that I was scared – the not knowing of what I had to come back to,” she said. “Would we have a home? How about our business? I can only imagine how frightening all of this must have been to our students. That is why I supported the call 100 percent.”

Moiso said she “never, ever expected” to receive a grievance from the administrators for having to come in to make sure their buildings were in good shape for opening day on Monday.

“Yes, school was closed. Yes, we had limited power in the high school, but we had enough power to go through each building, assess any damage and begin to help with displaced students before Monday,” she said. “You have to understand, too, that we had support staff who never left during the storm due to the fact that our high school was used as the headquarters for the first responders. Most of our staff, including some administrators, went above and beyond without a question or even a second thought.”

Moiso said Curt Nath, president of the Ocean City Education Association, representing the teachers, reached out to Taylor and offered any help from his union that might be needed “to get ready for Monday.”

“He also told her that many of his union members were very anxious to get back to their classrooms to check in and make sure that Monday would be as close to ‘business as usual’ as they could make it for everyone,” Moiso said.

“This grievance was an unfortunate event that, in my opinion, never should have seen the light of day,” she said. “So many in our community are continuing to deal with the aftermath of this storm and we have an administrators union that is concerned with having to report to work when they felt they were entitled to the day off. I have always had and continue to have great respect for our administrators, but this truly was a very disappointing move in light of all the suffering going on around us.” 

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