VINELAND — On a night when school officials said they would be sending reduction-of-staff notices to nontenured employees, a line of people appealed for one man's job.
Parents, students, former students, colleagues and private sector representatives called on local school board members Wednesday to preserve the job of Jim Smith, a district employee who coordinates a high school careers program but whose job is set for elimination along with 81 other district employees.
Smith's job is to help high school students find jobs. The people who spoke on his behalf at the school board meeting said he's pretty good at that.
“We are college students and we still go back to Vineland High School for help getting a job,” said Andrea Handy, a 2009 graduate and current freshman at Cumberland County College.
Sisters Amarilis and Leomarie Ayala, both Vineland High School graduates, said Smith helped them find jobs that set them on legitimate career paths, something that would have been difficult without his help, considering their father never graduated from high school and their mother worked a series of part-time jobs. Leomarie Ayala said Smith helped her secure a job at a law office.
“That was my dream job,” Ayala said. “I always wanted to work there.”
Teacher Robert Hoff read several letters from parents and former students praising Smith's work.
“Everyone talks about putting the students first, and Mr. Smith epitomizes that,” Hoff said.
Wawa representative Anna DeNovellis spoke of one student who felt Smith effectively saved her life by helping her find a job and stay out of trouble.
“The reason she isn't here tonight is she is taking a final at Princeton (University),” DeNovellis said.
Automotive instructor Louis Bramante said Smith has certifications that have made the district eligible and helped them obtain hundreds of thousands of grant dollars from automotive companies. Without Smith, the district will lose that money in the future, Bramante said.
Several appealed for Smith's job on the basis of what would be lost if he leaves the district.
“We're not eliminating the program,” Superintendent Maryann Banks said. “The proposal right now is to redistribute the work assignment.”
Voters rejected the proposed $190 million school budget, leaving it to City Council to determine a final version of the budget. Board member Brian DeWinne has proposed an alternate budget that he says would preserve the 82 jobs and the adult education program that is proposed to be cut.
City Council is set to meet Monday with school board members about the budget.
Contact Daniel Walsh: