How is Latin Treating its Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic?


Eden Raviv, Staff Writer

Latin employs dozens of staff members whose jobs hinge on use of the physical school buildings, the halls of which we no longer congest. As many of those employees are left with little to no work to complete remotely, the school faces the choice of whether or not to alter their compensation. After all, it remains within Latin’s legal right to lay off its non-salaried employees, decrease their work hours, or reduce their hourly wages ( It is precisely in times of adversity, when a community is poised to show its true colors, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orange and Blue has been put to the test. 

In late April, the Chicago Tribune reported that “about 1 in 6 American workers have lost jobs since coronavirus hit,” primarily because, with stay at home orders, their work is temporarily not required. Latin’s Chief Financial Officer, Michael Szczepanek, shared, “no Latin employees have been terminated due to the pandemic. Additionally, no adjustments in compensation, inclusive of benefits, have been made due to the pandemic.” Although Latin is likely to see changes in revenue as a result of the virus, the school has remained committed to supporting its dedicated employees, at least for the remainder of the school year.

The Forum reached out to Latin’s Director of Operations, Chanel L. King, in an attempt to connect with facilities staff members. However, Ms. King stated, “I am pretty confident that none of them would want to discuss [their work situations]. They love to work but hate any recognition.” Ms. King declined to provide contact information for these employees.  

Still, there were other staff members who were open to sharing changes to their jobs in this time. Upper School receptionist Sami Aday confirmed that he has not experienced any changes to his compensation, despite his significant decrease in work hours. Sami shared his gratitude for the school’s choice and to Latin as a whole. He said, “it really is special … it shows that the school cares about [its] employees.” During typical school weeks, Sami takes on the responsibility of ensuring that anyone who walks through the upper school’s front doors feels welcomed and appreciated. He greets every student and staff member by name, setting an inclusive tone for the school day. Sami describes his experience at Latin by sharing that “it is more than a job, it is a community, it’s a second home, and I’m thankful.”

Traffic and Security Aid, Russell Reimer, who has worked at Latin since 2014, said that “I’m incredibly lucky to be working for a place like Latin,” still, he has seen changes to his compensation, though his pay has only decreased “very, very slightly.” Mr. Reimer explained that this minimal decrease is due to his lack of current overtime work. He also stated that “overtime was never a guarantee in any given week, and I usually only got around 2-3 days a month at OT rates; it wasn’t money I depend on, and [I] was not concerned in the least about it not being paid.” In follow-up to Mr. Reimer’s interview, he subsequently contacted the Forum to clarify that “the upcoming paycheck will actually have some OT and will most likely more than make up for any missed OT.” Like Sami, Mr. Reimer welcomes lower school students into the building, particularly renowned for his enthusiastic high fives.  His job also includes setting up outdoor activities for students and guaranteeing their safety throughout the day. Mr. Reimer explained that “[the school] has been more than fair, they have been amazing,” and he feels “blessed to be at Latin.”

To address any possible miscommunications regarding salaries, Michael Szczepanek wrote that “if [an] individual … identified a variance in pay from expectation, they should reach out to [the] HR department for clarification.” Regarding plans for staffing next year, the CFO wrote that “we [will] continue to work with and monitor preliminary guidance from local, state and federal authorities concerning the 2020 – 2021 academic year. We are considering dozens of scenarios, all centered on delivering the unique Latin experience.”

While Ms. King may purport the custodial staff’s aversion to accolades, Latin’s students beg to differ. On behalf of the student body, upper school communications chair, George Landsberg says “thank you to the facilities staff and all the people at Latin that work behind the spotlight and allow us to go to such an amazing school. Thank you for all you do and so much more.”  Clearly, Latin’s board and administration agree, as they demonstrate with action.