Commissioner Carlos Salazar, who was filling in as county judge for Monday’s court meeting in David Silva’s absence, brought the idea before the three other county leaders to remove the high school diploma or GED requirement to work in the maintenance department of the county.
“Since the Eagle Ford, we have been having issues with maintenance and road and bridge departments keeping people on staff,” he said. “There is a great pool of individuals out there in the community — and I have spoken to the judge on this, and he agrees — that for whatever reason, we don’t know what goes on in their personal lives growing up that they somehow didn’t finish school and didn’t get a GED, but they are good, hard-working people.
“I am asking the court to consider waiving the requirement that they have a GED.”
Salazar said that the employees would still have to go through the other screening processes, which include a criminal background check.
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez agreed with the proposal, saying, “Anyone with a clean record and a GED – they are going to be working in the oil field.
“You have a lot of individuals that for whatever reasons don’t have a high school diploma or GED.
“We need workers, and this is a good way to get workers.”
Salazar added, “This is just for maintenance and custodial positions.
“This is not for the auditor’s office.”
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt was the first of the commissioners to voice concern.
“That totally restricts their upward mobility in county government,” he said. “Every other position we have has a minimum of a GED.
“We need to help. These folks are out there.
“Is there any way we could put something in there that they begin working on their GED? We want to make sure they can read and write.”
DeWitt also reminded that being able to read is crucial to knowing what is contained in cleaning bottles that could be dangerous if mixed improperly.
“It is very important they be able to read and understand the chemicals they are using,” he said.
Commissioner Ken Haggard, a former Skidmore-Tynan school board member, was concerned about the message this would send to the youth of the community.
“What kind of message are we sending out to these school districts?” he said. “We have students who don’t want to try very hard and a teacher tells them, ‘You won’t be able to get a job unless you graduate.’
“And they say, ‘I can work for the county. I don’t need an education to work for the county.’”
Rodriguez, a former teacher and principal, said that he didn’t feel the proposal would have any effect on students continuing their education.
“I think we should put people on the tax rolls and make them feel good about themselves,” he said.
“This is not against education. I am an educator.
“It is about getting workers, good workers who can work.”
While the proposal didn’t pass on Monday, the proponents of it say they will bring it up again when Silva, who was out at the time because of a death in the family, returns to the court.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.