School Custodians Say They Were Wronged By Volunteers' Work

BROOKLYN, Ohio (AP) - A community effort to honor a second-grader who died from a brain aneurysm has resulted in a grievance over whether two school employees lost overtime pay because others did landscaping work.

Two custodians, whose duties include landscaping, filed a grievance with the Brooklyn School District, arguing that they should be paid for work that was donated. Brooklyn is a Cleveland suburb.

Mark Hennings and Dave Scott want $37 an hour, the time-and-one-half rate, for the two weekends that volunteers, including high school seniors fulfilling community service requirements, spent sprucing up the grounds of Brooklyn High School and Roadoan Elementary School.

Brooklyn Superintendent Jim Garber said on Thursday that a grievance requires a series of meetings, with the possibility of arbitration. He said he has not had a chance to weigh the arguments.

He said the custodians are represented by the Ohio Education Association Brooklyn Classified Employees.

The project honored Matthew Barrick, 8, who died Feb. 14. Funeral services were private, so Roadoan Principal Margaret Lennard and staff members decided to have a ceremony and plant a tree at the school to honor Matthew.

The idea snowballed. Local landscapers Jim and Tara Beale offered their help, donating $700 worth of materials. Semins' Green House, Home Depot, Nations' Rent and other companies and residents also donated materials, totaling $3,000.

At the ceremony two weeks ago, students sang songs and wrote letters to Matthew. They also raised money to help Matthew's mother pay medical bills.

At Tuesday's school board meeting, when the grievance was discussed, Brooklyn High School Principal Gretchen Derethik choked back tears as she defended the students who earned their community service hours in Matthew's honor. Board members and some audience members stood and applauded.

Hennings insisted that the project violated a union contract. Union members applauded him.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)