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School crossing guards displeased about unemployment benefits change

Thursday, June 28, 2012 1:35 PM
Last updated Friday, June 29, 2012 12:26 AM
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About 30 Richmond County school crossing guards were ordered off the Georgia Department of Labor premises Thursday morning after they gathered to question a change in state rules that left them ineligible for state unemployment benefits.

Richmond County crossing guard Elizabeth Smith was one of about 30 protesting a change that leaves them ineligible for unemployment benefits.  SUSAN MCCORD/STAFF
SUSAN MCCORD/STAFF
Richmond County crossing guard Elizabeth Smith was one of about 30 protesting a change that leaves them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Head crossing guard Susan Smith questioned why the change, which this year eliminated the benefits for some seasonal education workers, was being applied to the guards, who are Richmond County Sheriff’s Office employees. She also asked why the approximately 70 guards were again provided annual written instructions about how to apply for the benefits if they weren’t eligible.

“We all want answers,” Smith said.

With most of the group moved to the sidewalk, Michael Armstrong, the assistant manager of the labor department’s downtown career center, told Smith that the guards were categorized as education workers in his records because they work in education and that they had a right to continue to file for the benefits, but that the department wasn’t allowed to inform the guards in advance of the rule change.

The labor department said in a statement Tuesday that the rule change, a belt-tightening measure by Labor Commissioner Mark Butler as Georgia copes with dwindling unemployment insurance coffers, was intended to “ensure equitable and fair treatment of all education workers.”

Several of the guards who appeared at the 8 a.m. gathering showed the letters they’d received from the sheriff’s office instructing them of the date and time when they should apply for benefits, along with documents showing how they continued to seek employment during the summer months, when they previously were eligible for unemployment.

Though the guards are Augusta employees, Richmond County Board of Education reimburses the city for half their annual salaries, said school board Controller Gene Spires. School bus drivers, who along with other seasonal education workers were affected by the rule change in other parts of the state, didn’t lose benefits here because their salaries are paid over a 12-month period.

Spires said the arrangement splitting the cost of crossing guards between the school system and Augusta government had been in place for at least 20 years for a service the system, which staffs its own police department, can’t do without.

“These children have to cross busy streets,” he said.

Several of the mostly elderly and female crossing guards were upset to learn about the change.

A guard for 40 years, 72-year-old Elizabeth Smith was distraught to learn the benefits that helped her through the summer months were gone without warning.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “What’s going to happen when school starts back and we don’t show up?”

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Little Lamb
43802
Points
Little Lamb 06/28/12 - 02:21 pm
3
1
Teachers

Using Ms. Smith's logic, teachers ought to be able to draw unemployment compensation during the summer.

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 06/28/12 - 03:02 pm
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The poorest of the poor
Unpublished

Our society kicks the poorest of the poor, even when they're down...

Riverman1
79005
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Riverman1 06/28/12 - 03:28 pm
2
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Exactly!!!

They are clearly hired with salaries drawn over 12 months. There's no justification for unemployment. I mean, goodness, that's a state unemployment benefit and no entity hiring people can guarantee those benefits.

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 06/28/12 - 03:40 pm
0
1
My point
Unpublished

My point is that unemployment is insurance........... Does the school district with hold unenployment insurance premiums from these folks' paychecks? If so they should collect...If not, then I would say no

Little Lamb
43802
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Little Lamb 06/28/12 - 03:56 pm
1
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Retirement

Has the sheriff's department ever considered setting up a mandatory retirement age policy? Maybe that issue ought to be brought up in the current sheriff debates.

madgerman
236
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madgerman 06/28/12 - 05:32 pm
1
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I see where they are listed
Unpublished

I see where they are listed as employees of the Sheriffs office (74 people). I alsd notice they are not listed under the RCBOE so what gives? Perhaps if we had a budget for either activity, we would understand what is being spent and who is responsible for spending it. What is amazing is the salary range, some3 make $7K some make $14K and some make $24K but they all have the same job title of crossing guard. What is not shown is if they are in fact salaried or hourly employees and if they are paid 12 months out of the year why aren't they out doing their jobs today and yesterday? P.S. I wonder how we ever managed without these people back in the days when schools wern't lavished with funding, teaching was a highly respected profession and law enforcement actually directed traffic?

DMPerryJr
1698
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DMPerryJr 06/28/12 - 06:33 pm
2
1
When I was

a kid going to school in Atlanta, the crossing guards were 7th graders, who led us across a busy inner city street.
Glad to see some of them have stayed in the business.

cozzster
50
Points
cozzster 06/29/12 - 05:12 am
1
0
Woah...
Unpublished

you get paid for being a crossing guard!?! While they are on the wagon, they may as well throw in hazardous duty pay for braving the crazy traffic down there...

lifelongresident
1317
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lifelongresident 06/29/12 - 08:06 am
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ms. smith, to answer your
Unpublished

ms. smith,

to answer your question "What’s going to happen when school starts back and we don’t show up?”

it will revert back to it was when there were no crossing guards...."LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREENT, ALWAYS CROSS AT THE LIGHT AND BE CAREFULL"..believe it or not ms. smith the school system was fuctioning very well before there were crossing guards...it will not break down if you don't show up..so please don't fool yourself, if the job was crucial to the education process then you would be paid 100,000 a year or more

avidreader
2947
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avidreader 06/29/12 - 11:39 am
0
0
Sympathy!

I have to say, I sympathize with the plight of these good people. Would it be out of bounds to suggest that each school ask its employees to voluntarily pony up some cash for their crossing guard. This is what communities did before the "Great Society" came to be.

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