With a roomful of angry custodians looking on, the school board last night voted 5-3 to enter into a contract with GCA Services Group, a company that could begin providing custodial and groundskeeping services at Metro schools by July.
Board members Sharon Gentry, Karen Johnson and Ed Kindall voted against the Cleveland, Ohio-based company’s proposal.
Under the agreement, Metro Nashville Public Schools is to pay the company $20 million per year. Outsourcing is expected to net the school district $6.2 million in savings.
Director of Schools Jesse Register has said his priority with this year’s budget has been to protect teacher positions. He’s also said the school district's 600-plus custodians and groundskeepers would have opportunities to retain their positions.
Representatives of GCA told the board last night of 16 different 10-hour job fairs beginning this Saturday to allow Metro employees a chance to submit their paperwork to retain their positions. Job fairs will be held at various Metro high schools across Davidson County.
Workers hired by GCA are to undergo traditional background checks, and the performance of the company will be subject to review by the board and the school district.
Many custodians who attended Tuesday night’s board meeting expressed concern over GCA’s health benefits plan for families, which takes $175 from each employee’s paycheck. GCA absorbs 65 percent of costs. Under the existing health plan for custodians, MNPS pays 75 percent.
After learning of the plan, the crowd erupted in opposition, and school board chair David Fox had to restore order.
Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year funds Metro schools at $633 million, the level requested by Register and the school board.
The school board’s budget hearing before the Metro Council is scheduled for June 3.
Several council members, including the council’s black caucus, have announced opposition to the school district’s decision to privatize some services.
“We request that the school board revisit their proposed budget and work with members of the Metro Council to come up with a solution that will allow for the custodians and ground workers to keep their positions with Metro schools," members of the caucus wrote in an open letter last week.