Human Resources Newsletter - Winter

2014/2015 School Year ~ Sue Keogh, HR Associate

The Gift of Saying "Thank You"

Every day we are try to help one another whenever we can. This could be from a simple act such as holding the door open for someone, to working as a team to get a project done on time. When you experience someone helping you, do you remember to say "Thank You"? Thank you are two powerful words that acknowledges the act of kindness and expresses your appreciation.

This New Year - I challenge each of you to try to say "Thank You" once a day. The instant gratitude that is received will be priceless.

Thank You Article

Act 153 of 2014 – New Requirements for Clearances

On October 22, 2014, Governor Corbett signed House Bill 435, now called Act 153 of 2014. This Act became effective on December 31, 2014 and requires school employees to disclose arrests or convictions (or face a criminal penalty) that would affect their ability to work with children.

Additionally, Act 153 requires school employees to provide or renew all three background clearances every 36 months (PA State Police, FBI record, and child abuse clearance). The Palisades School District is requiring ALL employees to complete the following Act 153 requirements.

Deadlines of Clearances:

  1. If one or more of your background checks were issued on December 31, 2011 or in January, February, or March 2012: You must apply for those backgrounds checks IMMEDIATELY

  2. If one or more of your background checks were issued between December 31, 2011 and December 31, 2014: Each document renewal is due by the third year anniversary date of issue. Note: It is recommended to renew all three at one time.

  3. If all three background checks were issued December 30, 2011 or earlier: These document renewals are due by December 31, 2015

  4. If you have no background checks because you have been continuously employed prior to January 1, 1986 (first date a background check was required): You MUST obtain all three documents by December 31, 2015.

It is the responsibility of the employee to pay for, obtain, and submit all clearances to me in order to stay in compliance. Your clearances are kept in a separate file in the personnel files. If you do not submit a return address envelope for your original clearances you send me, your original clearances will be kept in your clearance personnel file.

The Palisades School District will not pay to return your original clearances to you. The Palisades School District will not pay for or mail any clearances for employees.

Failure for you to comply with these state requirements will result in disciplinary action, up to and including your dismissal.

Please see letter for additional information.

Exempt verses Non-Exempt Employee

Why do I use clock time and my coworker does not have to use the time clock? Why can't I earn overtime? These are two very common questions we hear throughout the workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has very strict guidelines that schools and companies must follow to determine if an employee is exempt (sometimes referred to as salary employees) or non-exempt (sometimes referred to has paid hourly employees). Many factors are reviewed when a position is created to determine if it is exempt or non-exempt. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the attached Fact Sheet as a reference tool.


10 Winter Driving Tips

  1. Get a grip. To have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack. (New passenger-car tires usually have 10/32-inch of tread.) Ultrahigh-performance "summer" tires have little or no grip in snow. Even "all-season" tires don't necessarily have great snow traction: Some do, some don't. If you live where the roads are regularly covered with snow, use snow tires (sometimes called "winter tires" by tire makers). They have a "snowflake on the mountain" symbol on the sidewall, meaning they meet a tire-industry standard for snow traction.
  2. Make sure you can see. Replace windshield wiper blades. Clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding material (such as Rain-X) to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears: Switching fluid colors makes this easy.
  3. Run the air-conditioner. In order to remove condensation and frost from the interior of windows, engage your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option: It's fine to set the temperature on "hot." Many cars automatically do this when you choose the defrost setting.
  4. Check your lights. Use your headlights so that others will see you and, we hope, not pull out in front of you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow. If you have an older car with sand-pitted headlights, get a new set of lenses. To prevent future pitting, cover the new lens with a clear tape like that used to protect the leading edge of helicopter rotor blades and race car wings. It's available from auto-racing supply sites.

    Give yourself a brake. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It's easy to properly use anti-lock brakes: Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (A warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency. See Tip 8.) If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique: After you "Stomp" and the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working — ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second.
  5. For vehicles without ABS, you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned system: You. For non-ABS on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is not the same as "pumping the brake." Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement.
  6. Watch carefully for "black ice." If the road looks slick, it probably is. This is especially true with one of winter's worst hazards: "black ice." Also called "glare ice," this is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Test the traction with a smooth brake application or slight turn of the wheel.
  7. Remember the tough spots. Race drivers must memorize the nuances of every track, so they can alter their path for changing track conditions. You must remember where icy roads tend to occur. Bridges and intersections are common places. Also: wherever water runs across the road. I know people who lost control on ice caused by homeowners draining above-ground pools and by an automatic lawn sprinkler that sprayed water onto a street in freezing temperatures.
  8. Too much steering is bad. If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common — but incorrect — reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. That's like writing checks on an overdrawn account: It won't improve the situation and may make things worse. If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed. That may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS. Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but turning the steering too much never helps.
  9. Avoid rear-tire slides. First, choose a car with electronic stability control. Fortunately, ESC will be mandatory on all 2012 models. Next, make sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as your front tires. Finally, if you buy winter tires, get four.
  10. Technology offers no miracles. All-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving: It can't help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can't clear ice from the roads or give your tires more traction. Don't let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.
Regardless of your driving skill or vehicle preparation, there are some winter conditions that can't be conquered. But these tips may help prevent snowy and icy roads from ruining your day.

Health and Safety Tips

How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies?

Provided by Alan Klingbeil, PALMS Crew Chief


Personal Health:

When consumers buy commercial cleaning products, we expect them to do one thing: clean! We use a wide array of scents, soaps, detergents, bleaching agents, softeners, But while the chemicals in cleaners foam, bleach, and disinfect to make our dishes, bathtubs and counter-tops gleaming and germ-free, many also contribute to indoor air pollution, are poisonous if ingested, and can be harmful if inhaled or touched. In fact, some cleaners are among the most toxic products found in the home.

In 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, accounting for 206,636 calls. Of these, 120,434 exposures involved children under six, who can swallow or spill cleaners stored or left open inside the home.

Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose. The most acutely dangerous cleaning products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. Corrosive chemicals can cause severe burns on eyes, skin and, if ingested, on the throat and esophagus. Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia, which produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and should not be used by people with asthma or lung or heart problems. These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other or other chemicals to form lung-damaging gases. Combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia or ammonia and lye (in some oven cleaners) produces chloramine gases, while chlorine combined with acids (commonly used in toilet bowl cleaners) forms toxic chlorine gas. Never do mix these products. They can kill you.

Household Cleaning Supplies


What to look for:

A few safe, simple ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax, aided by a little elbow grease, a green #96 scrubbing pad can take care of most household cleaning needs. And they can save you lots of money.

However, when you need the convenience or the added power of pre-made, commercial cleaners, or for the basics like laundry and dishwashing detergents, here are some shopping guidelines to help you choose products with the lowest impact on your health and the environment:

  1. Although most cleaners don't list ingredients, you can learn something about a product's hazards by reading its label. Most labels bear a signal word, such as Danger, Warning or Caution, that provides some indication of a product's toxicity. Products labeled Danger or Poison are typically most hazardous; those bearing a Warning label are moderately hazardous, and formulas with a Caution label are considered slightly toxic. If you find them, choose products that are nontoxic enough that they require none of the signal words above on their label. Beside the signal word is usually a phrase that describes the nature of the hazard, such as "may cause skin irritation," "flammable," "vapors harmful," or "may cause burns on contact." Look for instructions on how to use the product, which may help you avoid injury. Some labels do list active ingredients, which may assist you in detecting caustic or irritating ingredients you may wish to avoid, such as ammonia or sodium hypochlorite. A few manufacturers voluntarily list all ingredients. It is also wise to avoid products with Butyl in them.
  2. When gauging ecological claims, look for specifics. For example, "biodegradable in 3 to 5 days" holds a lot more meaning than "biodegradable," as most substances will eventually break down if given enough time and the right ecological conditions. And claims like "no solvents," "no phosphates," or "plant-based" are more meaningful than vague terms like "ecologically-friendly" or "natural."'

The Palisades School District uses a Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner called Concentrate 118. It uses Stabilized Hydrogen Peroxide for the active ingredient. This provides us with a very safe cleaner and it sanitizes as you clean. This is the main stay of the cleaning arsenal for the custodial staff. We also have eliminated any cleaning products that contain butyl.

By educating yourself on what products to use, you can help your health and the environment we all share.

View the November 2014 Healthcare Consortium Health & Wellness Newsletter

The Palisades School District Trustees are Drew Bishop, Business Administrator, and Dennis Gluck, PSEA First Vice President. Website:

Wellness Incentives for Independence Blue Cross Members

Incentive Reminders:

The Health Advocate is a great resource of benefits you and your family are eligible for today. Learn more today at or call your Health Advocate at 1-800-695-8622.