May 18th 2007
Reynolds to fight for school janitor retention
Member for Townsville and Speaker in the State Parliament, Mike Reynolds, said today that he, "will go in strongly to bat" on behalf of Magnetic Island State School P&C to retain the services of their Janitor/groundsperson Mr Derek Phillippo.
Mike Reynolds told Magnetic Times, "I share the concerns that have been expressed to me in a letter from the P and C President, Teri Koenen and I will be going in strongly to bat for the Magnetic Island School on this issue."
Teri Koenen had written to Mike Reynolds after the school had been informed that due to lower numbers of students the school no longer qualified for the position to be maintained.
"Just because we've lost children doesn't mean our grounds have grown smaller." said Teri Koenen.
"Because we have less than 4.6 hectares (4 H) there will be no Derek! Instead we will get $5,000 per annum to pay a contractor. That equals one day's work per week. Derek does five and that is still not enough. We can organise more working bees but there will still be fallen limbs we will never get to."
"Magnetic Island is not just another suburb. People have to travel 8kms over water so we can't simply draw from groundstaff at other schools when required," said Teri Koenen.
Mike Reynolds said, "I believe that there are special circumstances that exist at the School for the retention of a Janitor and I will be taking this matter up personally with the Minister for Education, Rod Welford during the Parliamentary sitting in Brisbane next week.
"The loss of a janitor is not unique to Magnetic Island School as a number of schools in the Townsville electorate have small school populations and janitors have in some cases been hired to work at more than one school. The fact that Magnetic Island School operates a community pool which is maintained by the janitor at the School is a major difference to other schools generally.
In her letter to Mike Reynolds, Teri Koenen noted, "...concern exists for the prevalence of death adders on Magnetic Island. If the grounds are not regularly cleared and maintained more snakes may be attracted to live there. Mr. Phillippo has on many occasions removed snakes, including death adders, from buildings and pathways around the school."
Other factors the P & C have raised in support of Mr Phillippo's retention include: mowing of the new full size oval, which needs monthly maintenance to the underground watering system; Mr Phillippo's wide range of skills which save the school many extra costs and include general plumbing, electrical, carpentry and mechanical maintenance (Mr. Phillippo services and repairs all school machinery including the swimming pool equipment).
The school grounds also border onto the difficult terrain of Gustav Creek which is, Teri Koenen says, "abundant with wildlife and this needs more care than just slashing and mowing.
"He is also involved with paving, constructing rotundas, erecting and dismantling playgrounds, erecting shade marques on sports days and line marking for these sports days, just to name a few."
The school's grounds have also been noted as a koala habitat. A long standing attraction to Island visitors has been the view of koalas in the trees within the school's grounds beside Sooning Street. Teri Koenen believes the upkeep of the grounds plays an important role in maintaining the Island's appeal as a wildlife haven.
Mike Reynolds said, "I know the Education Department has a cut-off point in regard to enrolments and they are usually very determined to keep this policy in place.
"I will be fighting hard for the Magnetic Island School given the unique differences that are applicable to both the community and the School."
As an employee of the Department of Education Mr Phillippo was not prepared to comment on his situation.
Story & photos: George Hirst
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