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Custodian Outsourcing Talks Continue

Information submitted by four custodial services companies to be evaluated by committee.

While an NJEA campaign that includes purple "Stangers? Not in my schools!" lawn signs is under way to protest the , Board of Education members and adminstrators continue to review information submitted by four custodial services companies as a possible way to increase custodial staff within the confines of the school budget, officials said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

A committee of board members and administrators plans to narrow down the field of four companies to two or three after evaluating the submissions when the committee meets after spring break, business administrator Gary Lane said.

District officials then would call school districts where the finalist companies worked and arrange in-person interviews with the people who would serve as on-site managers if the company were to be selected.

The is continuing discussions with members of the union that represents the 19 custodians who work for Madison schools, and no decisions have been made, officials said.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi has said the scenarios currently being looked at involve keeping six of the existing custodians. He said the Madison Facilities Staff Association has made what the district would normally consider excellent offers under normal bargaining circumstances, but the district still needs to weigh the union's offers against proposals from companies.

Joseph Cecala, head custodian at Torey J. Sabatini school and president of the association, which is a member of the NJEA, has said they would continue the discussions.

The union distributed fliers with a picture of the staff members, saying no one can match their commitment to safety, quality and service.

"We care about your kids and have been a mainstay in their lives," the flier says. "Why should the Board entrust your child to anyone else?"

District officials said the district's custodians are understaffed after recent budget cuts, and outsourcing would allow the district to have about 10 more people maintaining the schools, including a plumber, electrician and HVAC specialist.

MadisonJoe April 04, 2012 at 12:36 PM
More staff for less money....sounds like a no-brainer to me. Why is there even a discussion?
Mikey D April 04, 2012 at 01:51 PM
"Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing." The "Madison Way" has been cited again.
Anonymous April 04, 2012 at 07:03 PM
So what "value" do you place on maintaining the status quo? And if the analysis says that you can save money and/or improve service inclusive of that premium, would you still recommend not making a change?
Mikey D April 04, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Great points, Anonymous. And I agree that times are tough and require tough measures to be taken. However, if we are truly looking to get "the most (not best) services for our dollar" where does it end? Custodians now, teachers next? Do we need a borough administrator, an assistant and a school superintendent? Top heavy small government, in my humble opinion. At what point does the equation of sacrificing performance for price reach a breaking point? Our "no cost to the taxpayer" turf fields are proving to be anything but (parking lots, call boxes, machine to maintain them, workers for same, etc.), however we HAD to have them. Slaves to our lifestyle, but that's another story. As I've said elsewhere, I'm not an elected official, so crying to me for help and ideas is not only misguided it's not my job. I will predict, however, that the custodians will be fired, a new, cheaper firm will be hired (cutting our way to profitability) and the powers in place will spend a great amount of time and effort making sure that we all know that their hands were tied and they were forced by the state/Trenton/Christie/the wind to make the cuts. Oh, and the services won't be as good as they are now.
KHRS April 05, 2012 at 01:09 PM
If you knew these custodians, MadisonJoe, you might feel differently. They are so kind, helpful and hardworking. They know the kids, always go out of there way to help parents and kids alike and the kids know them, a big comfort and, frankly, part of the lesson that they are not just faceless servants in their schools, but part of the school team. I am saddened that this seems to be being looked at purely as a cost issue, not one of human cost. I am frightened to think of underpaid strangers shuttling through the schools with access to kids. Experience does matter for these jobs, as it does for nearly every job I can think of.
Lisa Ellis April 05, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Over the last two years and into next the Madison School District will have lost over $3 million dollars in state aid and must now also live within a 2% tax levy cap, together these factors have put the district in a serious financial bind. 1.) The district has an obligation to make sure that all operations are running at maximum efficiency and economy, so that maximum dollars can be spent in the classroom. 2.) The concept of outsourcing has been discussed for well over a year, closer to two and has been motivated primarily by understaffing caused by years of forced budget cuts. We cannot afford to make up the staffing deficit under current practice 2.) The board takes this decision very seriously and will fully explore, evaluate and publicly discuss all aspects of the issue as the process proceeds. We have a complex problem in front of us but will work to find a fair long term solution.
MadLaxDad April 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
MikeyD Need to correct you. The parking lot for the turf is being paid for without any town funds, the project came in under budget and thus there were funds for paving. The machine to maintain was part of the project. The call boxes were installed using $5,000 or so of town funds at the recommendation of the police because it was found out after the fact that a 911 call would be routed to Florham Park and not Madison due to the location. It also includes an AED machine, the first of its kind on a borough playing field. The turf fields were already fields requiring maintenance but the DPW was unable to give any details about how much it costs to maintain the old Pit fields because they never tracked it, the council asked them for a figure on the turf. There is no additional cost.
Mikey D April 05, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I stand corrected! Thanks for the update, MLD.
MadLaxDad April 05, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Mikey, No problem, just figured since we finally had a project come in under budget in town it deserves some attention!
TLB April 27, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Our custodial staff is really part of what makes our schools special. It makes me sad to think that we are considering outsourcing their services. Savings are great and undoubtedly necessary in this day and age, but you get what you pay for. Anyone who works in an office sees what a cleaning service does. This is not the same as a team of professionals that takes pride in their job and cares about our kids--many of whom they know by name. I wonder how many school districts make this change and end up going back after they find you get what you pay for.
Karen M May 22, 2012 at 06:03 PM
If anyone is interested in reading a very good article about outsourcing that is written by a person with firsthand knowledge about the pifalls of outsourcing, I will provide the link. Outsourcing isn't what it appears to be, yes in hindsight its all about the savings, but in reality, there are pitfalls to outsourcing that are not fully noticed until a year or so after they've been implemented. I for one would like to know who will be in charge of the outsourced company? I mean, who is going to monitor the company? Does this fall to the superintendent, the prinicipal or the school administrator? Or will it require taxpayer dollars to hire a specific person who is assigned to this post? Who takes on the burden of writing RFP's, evaluating bids, writing and revising contracts and evaluating services and the continous monitoring which require both time and resources? Secondly, most companies will offer low-ball bids to secure a contract, what happens when the contract expires and the cost increases, does Madison once again have to go out and find a new company? Will the schools be subjected once again to a turn over of new employees? I guess the signs are correct then when they say no strangers in our schools, because that's what they'll get everytime a contract expires and a new company is sought out.
Karen M May 22, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Here is the link to an article titled: A guide to Contracting out School Support Services. Good for the School? Good for the Community? <a title="View PB-Mathis-ContractingOut2 on Scribd" href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/36148807/PB-Mathis-ContractingOut2" style="margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block; text-decoration: underline;">PB-Mathis-ContractingOut2</a><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/36148807/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-22pwtjjnx1s6oveaqyp7" data-auto-height="true" data-aspect-ratio="0.772727272727273" scrolling="no" id="doc_23261" width="100%" height="600" frameborder="0"></iframe>

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