Board considers outsourcing work

Published 10:30pm Saturday, September 14, 2013

At its meeting Thursday, a School Board member’s bid to explore using outsourcing to fund a 5-percent raise exclusively for educators was shot down.

Board member Linda Bouchard raised the topic in two motions. The first, to prioritize a 5-percent raise for teachers and assistants in upcoming budget deliberations, was supported unanimously.

The second, to direct Superintendent Deran Whitney to explore outsourcing “parts of maintenance and custodial services” to fund it, failed narrowly.

While other school district employees also deserve raises, “we have to fully support those directly teaching children,” Bouchard argued. “I want it to be the most important thing on our agenda.”

Opposition to Bouchard’s plan to explore outsourcing came from Judith Brooks-Buck, Enoch Copeland and Lorraine Skeeter.

With Diane Foster out of the chambers during the ballot, votes for and against Bouchard’s second motion were tied, killing it.

Some board members appeared shocked that one of their colleagues had raised the issue.

“I think some of this should have been brought up with the superintendent prior to this meeting,” Copeland said. “What we are discussing, I think, should have been recommended by the superintendent. Therefore, I can’t support the second motion.”

Brooks-Buck had a problem with proposing a raise for some district staff and not all. “I think we are a whole team,” she said.

“I can’t imagine taking away from one (group of workers), and saying, ‘Business could do it a better way.’”

She also said that while affected staff might not lose their jobs, history shows they would lose benefits.

Bouchard said there is a precedent for outsourcing, citing Norfolk Public Schools, the City of Norfolk, Isle of Wight County Public Schools and Virginia State University.

“There are many school systems that have determined they can more efficiently take care of these services with a private company,” she said. “It does not necessarily mean we are taking jobs away.”

Suffolk Public Schools owes it to Suffolk citizens, “who are paying for all these bills,” to look at other ways of rewarding teachers, she said.

Board chairman Michael Debranski, who voted for the second motion, said the the system needs to “look at all aspects … that can help us support instruction.”

“I’d like to see the different particulars … the benefits versus the things that are not good with it,” he added.

Whitney, who said exploration of outsourcing had been initiated before “based on previous conversations,” appeared lukewarm on Bouchard’s idea.

“I have reservations about it only being instructional staff, because we need to send a message to all our staff that they’re worthy of an increase of some sort,” he said.

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