Outsourcing in schools creeps forward

Published 11:15pm Friday, November 15, 2013

After a full slate of board members voted on the issue for the first time, Suffolk Public Schools will move ahead with determining whether outsourcing is a good money-saving idea or too hazardous for its lowest-paid employees.

Following a pattern since the School Board’s Linda Bouchard broached the topic in September, her colleagues Judith Brooks-Buck and Enoch Copeland voted against taking a closer look at the concept, while a total of five board members were for it at Thursday’s meeting.

They directed administrators to collect information on whether outsourcing maintenance and custodial services would actually save the district money, ahead of a future decision on whether to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) to companies that would charge the district to provide the services.

After Bouchard’s first attempt to initiate a fact-finding mission was narrowly defeated, an initial decision to proceed was made in October without an actual vote.

As it appears after Thursday’s vote, Bouchard, Skeeter, Diane Foster, Phyllis Byrum and Chairman Michael Debranski believe at least that outsourcing services to provide a 5-percent raise for educators — what Bouchard hopes it would save money to achieve — at least deserves further consideration.

Bouchard maintained Thursday she believes savings would result, but said she doesn’t know how much.

“I think we owe it to ourselves, because of our economic situation, to look into it.”

After following the board’s previous direction, essentially to explore ways of exploring whether outsourcing should be further explored, Susan Redmon, the district’s purchasing manager, presented board members Thursday the plan they voted to follow — or at least to begin to follow.

The cost analysis will look at salary and benefits, custodial supplies including delivery costs, equipment capital and maintenance costs, as well as uniforms.

“There are many things to consider, and certainly both pros and cons of outsourcing,” Redmon said.

RFPs could contain strict guidelines, she said, such as maintaining benefits, the level of cleanliness expected, and job-protection measures.

“If RFPs go out, if it’s not worth it to us … we are not obligated to move any further along than that,” she said.

Countering Brooks-Buck’s argument that outsourcing results in less-clean facilities because private companies cut corners to increase profits, Bouchard said they aren’t clean enough now.

“I don’t believe our schools are nearly as clean as they should be,” Bouchard said. “I have proof; I have pictures. A couple of them are absolutely spotless, Oakland Elementary School for one. I’m not going to name the names of the ones that are not … but I’m willing to later.”

Sounding a familiar refrain, Copeland asked why outsourcing was even being discussed: “What’s wrong with the present system that we are even speaking to this?”

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  • stown23437

    Concerns:

    Why are children being subjected to sub par cleanliness?
    Who is PRESENTLY responsible for the custodial staff?
    Are you concerned of personal property of teachers now? OR is that not a concern because they presently do not clean classrooms?

    Suggest Removal

  • 7l

    Concerns:
    Who will be responsible for the vetting of the private sector employees?
    Who will be responsible if an incident with one of our children occurs?
    What will be the likely cost of theft of school property?
    Who will cover the theft of a teacher’s personal property?

    Suggest Removal

  • fingertothenose

    Go to the bathrooms at Lakeland or Nansemond. It any if the middle schools. You’ll begin to see why outsourcing is needed.

    Copeland and buck are out of touch and do not represent the schools

    Suggest Removal

    • blueberry

      The bathrooms in the 2nd grade hallway at Kilby Shores smell awful every morning.

      Suggest Removal

    • Peanutbred

      Following that logic, then every function of the Suffolk City Schools should be outsourced if it is found to be deficient, because its administration is unable to address the matter and correct it.

      Suggest Removal

      • spdrltr

        I agree. The problem seems to be the administration.

        Suggest Removal

  • Peanutbred

    Once an RFP is accepted, there will be no improvement in the cleanliness of of the schools, no real savings, and a complicated, time-consuming process to fix a new problem will ensue. Perhaps, we should consider outsourcing the school board, instead, who apparently cannot direct the school administration to address the issue of dirty schools.

    Suggest Removal

  • bo_sox

    Thank you for recognizing the hard work of Mr. G and his team at Oakland. They do more than keep the building spotless, they are part of the Oakland family. They love Oakland and take pride in their work. Losing them would be a disservice to the school!

    Suggest Removal

    • chief601

      Apparently the team at Oakland can do the job. Perhaps they can get the contract and all the schools can benefit. To those who think the administration is at fault could there be other indicators? SOL scores (54% failing in math comes to mind – and the answer is to give a bonus for doing your job, more schools unaccredited, etc. Competition is a good thing – that’s what school vouchers is all about. Why can private secular and Christian schools do a better job while teachers usually make less money and have fewer benefits? The answers are obvious – an administration that can make decisions, teachers who are supported and can teach and required parental involvement. Most of my family took our kids out of public schools in the 80s as they were failing then. They are worse now. I was a single dad and the cost of the school was a burden but I don’t regret one minute of time getting the kids back and forth or one penny spent. The schools are NOT going to get better.

      Suggest Removal

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