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Petaluma school union opposes parent volunteer program

  • Volunteer Greg Oliviera jokingly waves his finger at a staff member as helps make sure children obey the rules after school outside of Petaluma Junior High School on Tuesday, October 19, 2010, in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

An employees union at Petaluma Junior High School is protesting a program that places parents in volunteer positions on campus.

The dispute has left some potential volunteer opportunities unfilled.

The issue arose after the launch this year of a pilot program sponsored by the non-profit Healthy Communities Consortium that sought to place about 80 parents in key roles on campus.

In some cases, those jobs previously were done by employees whose jobs were eliminated by budget cuts. In other instances, the roles are new and identified by school officials as necessary.

Either way, classified employees' union president Loretta Kruusmagi is crying foul.

"As far as I'm concerned, they never should have started this thing," she said.

"Noon-duty people — those are instructional assistants," she said. "We had all those positions. We don't have them anymore, but those are our positions. Our stand is you can't have volunteers, they can't do our work."

Kruusmagi represents about 350 Petaluma school employees performing clerical, maintenance, custodial and other work.

It's not the first time that tough economic times have spurred a call to action among volunteers while at the same time igniting conflict with unions still smarting over job cuts, said Deputy Superintendent Steve Bolman.

"You can't contract out or have volunteers do bargaining-unit work," he said. "It's always an issue. It's nothing new, particularly at times when you are doing layoffs."


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