Mallett Hangs Up Employee Uniform Policy

WHEELING – Two Ohio County Board of Education members last week met with the district’s transportation workers to inform them of what they can and can’t wear to work now that service personnel are no longer required to wear uniforms.

The issues of that meeting and the need for additional clarification on the uniform policy came up during a special school board meeting Monday, which ended when board President Shane Mallett told fellow board member Sarah Koegler there would be no more discussion on the topic, slammed his gavel on the table and adjourned the gathering.

“Our uniform policy is dead, and we won’t be addressing it anymore,” Mallett told Koegler.

School board members did approve a measure Monday requiring all employees to wear identification badges, and also OK’d last minute personnel hirings and changes.

The identification measure passed with a vote of 4-0, with board member Christine Carder absent. The board met early Monday as classes got underway in the county.

Following the ID vote, Koegler asked if members could further discuss the uniform policy, as some employees still have questions on what they can and can’t wear to work. Service personnel previously were required to wear uniforms provided by the county.

“I’m confused. I don’t want to be – as Mr. Mallett said – micromanaging our employees. I think our supervisors are in the place to manage them,” Koegler said. “But I think we are providing uniforms for some people, but not all people. I think we should talk about that and be clear about that.”

Koegler also asked if the district had collected the employee uniforms. Superintendent Dianna Vargo said staff returned last week, and each supervisor was given a form asking them to identify which employees had uniforms and to list those items that were still in their possession.

“They’re starting to come in through the collection process,” Vargo said.

Koegler said she also had been informed and was concerned that board members Gary Kestner and Tim Birch had met with some service personnel to tell them how they now should dress on the job.

She asked for discussion on the topic at the next board meeting, but Mallett refused.

Mallett later attempted to clarify his actions, noting “board member comments” weren’t listed on the agenda, and claiming that’s why he stopped Koegler.

“She was not supposed to do that … to get into issues like that where there are no board member comments scheduled on the agenda,” he said. “She is well aware of that.”

Mallett said it was “disappointing the issue keeps arising,” and that the board had made its final decision on uniforms.

He said Kestner – the district’s former transportation director – and Birch met last week with employees at the transportation garage after receiving questions about the new dress policy. The meeting was first approved by Vargo and Transportation Director David Ziegler, according to Mallett.

“We put the policies into place, and (Vargo) administers them,” Mallet said of the board’s role. “We also answer questions. We are allowed to answer questions people have.”

Kestner said he was contacted by some of his former employees about the dress policy.

“For me, it was not unusual,” he said of the meeting. “I worked with those guys and gals … Everyone seemed to be fine with it.”

He supports Mallett’s decision to not discuss the uniform policy at Monday’s board meeting.

“He’s the president,” Kestner said. “How he conducts the meeting is his business. It is a dead issue. We’ve discussed and discussed it. Like him, I think it’s over.”

And Birch believes board members have answered “everything the people wanted to know” about the uniform policy.

“It’s like beating a dead dog,” Birch said.

Neither Koegler nor Carder immediately returned calls Monday seeking additional comment.