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Board dissolves department

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BAKER - Maintenance workers with the Baker School System stood before the school board Tuesday to plead for their job, as an agenda item called for the elimination of a department with four employees.

One of the workers who was set to lose his position asked, "What do we do?"

"All of us have family we have to feed and everything," he said.

The board voted to dissolve the maintenance department but keep the four employees on payroll until June 30. The four employees will still be paid by the Baker School System but will be overseen by Volkert, a company hired by the district to perform contract work.

"We're looking at a maintenance department who had a supervisor who is no longer with [the system] and we're also looking at a maintenance department that is in disarray," Board president Elaine Davis said.

The changes come after maintenance supervisor Emmitt Whitfield was arrested for a third time last month, accused of stealing $2,100 worth of gas. Before the arrest for fuel theft, he was accused of stealing almost $130,000 worth of items from the district.

The board also said the timing is right for changes since Superintendent Ulysses Joseph will retire at the end his term next month.

But, the changes didn't come without a fight from board member Doris Alexander who said the move "looks bad."

"It looks like we're trying to cover up something," said Alexander. "It really does, and those guys are working in the rain, in the heat and they're doing the best they can."

As the discussion continued, Davis stood by her decision. She cited complaints from administrators and the long amount of time it takes to complete work orders.

"We're just moving in a new direction and trying to increase efficiency and productivity," said Davis.

The board says they will leave it up to the incoming superintendent to decide what happens with the maintenance employees.

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