School board reaffirms decision to outsource custodians

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 11:45pm

The school board cast what appears to be its final vote on the controversial decision to outsource the district’s custodial and groundskeeping services Tuesday night, voting 6-2 to approve a five-year contract with GCA Services Group.

The Cleveland, Ohio-based company is now poised to begin working inside Metro schools as early as July. Director of Schools Jesse Register has said current school custodians and groundskeepers would have first dibs in retaining their current positions. Some 500 of the district’s more than 600 custodians have already re-applied for their jobs.

Board members Karen Johnson and Ed Kindall voted against approving the contract, with Sharon Gentry abstaining.

The board had already approved Register’s $633.3 million budget, which includes outsourcing as a way to free up money during a cash-strapped year while protecting the jobs of teachers. The board had also agreed to enter into a contract with GCA.

Last night’s vote simply approved the parameters set out in the contractual agreement, establishing, most notably, the health benefits package and 401(k) plan for GCA custodians. According to the contract, the performance of GCA will be under regular review by Metro Nashville Public Schools and the board.

The schools budget will become official only when Metro Council approves Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.52 billion budget. The council is set to consider Metro’s budget on third reading at its June 15 meeting.

The board’s most recent vote came after Johnson, a critic of the privatization plan, asked that another vote be recorded on the outsourcing decision.

“I just feel that there are going to be long-term ramifications,” Johnson said. “My biggest concern is the detriment to morale because I think all of us are on the same team. It takes everyone being enthusiastic about MNPS for us to be able to achieve the vision and goals that we’re seeking to accomplish.”

8 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 6:03

is there no Tennessee company they could use? How much kickback does Register get?

By: brmason on 6/9/10 at 6:43

I attended this meeting and what this article doesn't tell you is that five school bus drivers were allowed 3 minutes to speak to the board, myself included. My four fellow drivers criticized the board boldly for their actions. I spoke on the excellent safety record of our current transportation department and that a decision to lower bus driver pay was a decision to lower the overall quality of the bus drivers- those MNPS employees which are responsible for the lives and safety of Nashville's children while driving 7 million route miles per year on some of the country's busiest interstates.
I had actually hoped that we might still have a chance of changing some of the school board members' minds about the budget cuts, after the city council spoke out so strongly against them. So many are against these cuts, yet the school board carries on. Our words fell on deaf ears, with the exception of Karen Johnson and Ed Kindall who have been publicly against these cuts.
Also not mentioned was a comment by one of the school board members saying she had only received a copy of the contract for GCA an hour before the meeting! Six school board members voted in favor of this contract even though they appear to know very little about the details.
There is so much more I would have liked to have said in front of the school board, but three minutes is not enough to say it all. I concentrated on what was best for the children, since that is what we repeatedly hear from them. They've heard it all anyway and they don't care. It doesn't matter to them that I will lose $3400 in annual income or that this money represents what I need each month to buy food for my three children.
I would have liked to tell them what we, as bus drivers are taught. We are taught to leave our problems at home. When we get behind that steering wheel we are to have one thing on our driving. That hasn't been easy this year, with our pay being on the line. Next year it will be even more difficult when our pay is cut, our bills are due and our children are hungry.
After the vote on the contract, my friends and I walked out; we had heard enough. We saw a man enter the building with a cake. I guess while we are left out in the cold, with our hearts breaking- they would end their meeting with a celebration.

By: michael thomas on 6/9/10 at 6:59

Mnps should change thier name to metro needs professional stewards. Metro coucil do not give these greedy people the extra money they want.

By: popeye123 on 6/9/10 at 7:48

Outstanding work from the school board. They didn't let emotion over rule logic. I'd like to see more cutting and slashing. If it saves tax payers money do it. Get rid of more dead weight. The painters at metro schools sleep during working hours.

Here is a typical day for one crew that I know of personally. They come in and decide where to go get breakfast. One or two go get the breakfast for the crew. The rest are busy waiting for breakfast to arrive. When it arrives they all sit down for a nice meal. Good conversation and hot coffee. Once the meal is complete they watch a little TV if they can find a room with one that is secluded where they won't be seen. After a while one or two of them go to where they are painting that day and get their equipment ready to paint. Now it is break time. They take their break and talk about where to have lunch. They go make a showing and then it is lunch time. After an extended lunch they take a nap in shifts. Paint for a while and then get ready for afternoon break. You get the idea. I know this personally and have nothing to gain by stating it except to try to stop the fraud and waste.

By: localboy on 6/9/10 at 8:03

Popeye123-thanks for the post; I'm not in the Metro buildings so I have not seen or heard about this. Are the painters used by MNPS employees or contracted, I wonder?

By: popeye123 on 6/9/10 at 8:10

Metro employees. White uniforms with Metro schools logo on a blue and white patch.

By: govskeptic on 6/9/10 at 9:25

Thankfully the board did what was right versus the "Demands" of the union on this issue. There's no indication that safety will be any less of an issue with this plan versus keeping the government payroll employees. In fact it may get even better since there will be more accountability!

By: pswindle on 6/9/10 at 4:58

Maybe, we need to recall Register like we did Pedro.