Outsourcing custodial work opposed by staff
Teachers concerned about job losses
MILFORD – Outsourcing custodial jobs would mean big losses to the schools, several school staff members told the School Board recently.
Officials are looking at the possibility of privatizing custodial and grounds maintenance work to save money. At the Sept. 9 board meeting, teachers and other staff members said they would hate to lose the 23 employees who work in the district, whom they called very dedicated.
"We trust them; they are members of the community," and that is more important than the money, Brenda Walker said. "When we call someone on Christmas Eve about a burst pipe – would we have to call Nashua or Manchester?"
Another teacher said she can leave an iPad or cash in her desk and never worry.
Paula Durand, a Heron Pond teacher, said some teachers are in the building until 9 p.m., and when "you are alone in a building with five guys, you want to know who they are."
She also noted that the board is negotiating with the custodians’ union, so it doesn’t seem fair to bring up the issue of outsourcing now.
All of the staff members said the current custodians are deeply invested in the schools and take great pride in their work.
The board is looking at three outsourcing options, including a one-year pilot program.
The School District’s operating budget was rejected by voters two years in a row, as was a $3 million warrant article for districtwide building repairs and improvements. Another cost-cutting option, to charge students for sports participation, was rejected by the board recently.
Hiring an outside company for custodial, maintenance and groundskeeping is estimated to potentially save the district a net $450,000 a year. Plus, there would be savings on equipment repair and maintenance costs, according to a report prepared by William Cooper, head of the district’s buildings and grounds department.
Last month, Cooper laid out many of the pros and cons for the board, including the intangibles the teachers mentioned: the advantage of having workers who live nearby and who take personal pride in the schools and who will deal with after-hours emergencies, and the loss of business for local companies that provide services and supplies.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.