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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.