School Department to Outsource Custodians
The committee has decided not to accept a proposal from the custodians union.
In an effort to save more than $200,000, the School Committee last night said it will outsource its school custodians to an outside vendor.
School Committee Chairwoman Janet Askenburg recused herself from discussion on the topic due to a potential conflict of interest.
School Committee Vice Chairman Nick DeSilvio said the committee issued a request for proposal last spring, to which 10 vendors submitted proposals. DeSilvio said each proposal was ranked and the top three proposals would provide cost savings.
"(We) notified the custodial union and invited the union to meet with School Committee if they desired. The union (and the committee) met four times, during which the union had the opportunity to provide proposals to (for) a comeptitve level of cost savings to the School Department," said DeSilvio.
DeSilvio said the School Committee rejected the union's "final and best offer."
In an executive session vote, the committee decided to reject that proposal and outsource custodial services to a vendor under the terms of the RFP. The change will take place on July 1.
DeSilvio said the vendor and the union will meet to discuss potential employment opportunities.
Aramark, the schools' top choice, presented a plan to the committee. Five representatives told committee members they will regularly survey and meet with principals and administrators, control inventory, and train their employees monthly on new equipment or processes.
The representatives said amanager will observe and critique employees regularly. Employees know the community, they said.
"I got a letter from a science teacher, who is concerned for the chemicals, the more sensitive areas (in schools) ... what would you tell this person about his area? Will it be secure? He's concerned about keys," said School Committee member Al Thomas.
The repreentatives said Aramark manager will know who has what keys at all times and designate one or two people to have access to the schools' alarm panel.
"Some of those people have been with us a long time and done a great job and we recognize that," said Thomas.
School Committee member Mike Rigney asked the representatives what their turnover rate was like. The representatives said they have a "tremendous amount of 12+ year employees" while 15-20 percent of employees have been with the company for more than six years.
"I know what it takes being an operations guy, with the right equipment and with right plan, these guys can do amazing things," said DeSilvio, "and I think that’s critical. The employment part is critical. The key thing for us is safety ... safety for the kids, safety for the staff is extremely important to me as it is for everyone."
Superintendent Frank Tiano asked the representatives about snow days, to which the representatives replied that they will do whatever needs to get done, including coming in early to clear slow and call in extra staff.
DeSilvio said this decision has been a difficult one for the committee.
"The team will sit down (today) to look at it I think the word we used was a 'cadiallac plan' and we were impressed with what we saw," he said.
The contract will save about $200,000 according to School Business Manager Kathy McWilliams. The contract would be for three years with the option to renew it for years four and five.
At the meeting, teacher and parent Benjamin Cole spoke against the measure.
"I am disappointed in the School Committee's most recent actions ... terribly disappointed in the decision to cut staff and bring strangers into the school," he said.
"I can only guess as to the reason (for this). I hope it is not for idoleogical grounds. Schools are not businesses, we are here for the kids ... This school system is great and nothing further should be done to dismantle it," said Cole.
The committee will vote on the contract tonight at 6 p.m. at the School Department Offices.