Board’s look at out-sourcing catches janitors’ attention

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / May 24, 2000

RESERVE – A discussion on out-sourcing the St. John the Baptist Parishpublic school custodial services was cut short at last week’s school board meeting. About 20 custodial workers had crowded into the meeting room inReserve hoping to shed some light on the issue.

However, instead of a discussion, Felix Boughton, director of Business Operations for the school board, just handed out an informational packet to the board that explained his findings. Boughton said a discussion on out-sourcing the custodial services would be deferred until the June 1 meeting.

Boughton, at the request of the administration, had researched the concept of hiring an outside company to do all the maintenance and custodial work in the public schools. The workers who went to the school board meeting wereafraid they were in danger of losing their jobs and benefits.

The school board went on to the next item on the agenda, but Herman Clayton, president of the St. John Parish Association of Educators, wasupset the matter had even been brought up at the meeting.

“This is an issue that is being discussed in contract negotiations,” said Clayton, “This should not be put up for public discussion.”The administration is in contract negotiations with the SJPAE, set to end on June 30.

Board member C.J. Watkins asked the board’s attorney, John Diasselliss, ifClayton was correct.

Diasselliss said, “The board is only getting information on this issue. And theboard can discuss anything.”Clayton then read Article II, Part B of the contract that states “neither party shall discuss anything publicly that is being discussed in negotiations.”Board President Richard DeLong told Clayton, “I really don’t want to discuss this. In fact, I was just handed this information, and I really don’t know muchabout this to discuss it.”Clayton responded, “We are talking about all employees and custodial workers in the contract negotiations, and as such this information should not be discussed here.”Watkins told Clayton the workers should file a grievance, and the board went on to the next item on the meeting’s agenda.

The meeting room quickly emptied when it was realized no discussion was to take place.

Board member Matthew Ory apologized to the workers who had come to the meeting expecting a discussion.

Despite workers’ fears, Boughton said he wanted to assure everyone that no one would lose their job if the board decides to out-source custodial work.

“There will be no attempt to lay off workers,” Boughton said. “The only waywe will let in an outside company is if they agree to hire our employees.”Boughton said the KPMG auditors who performed an efficiency study of the school system at the beginning of the year suggested out-sourcing custodial services.

According to the KPMG survey, the St. John School Board could save between$295,000 and $457,000 a year if it out-sourced custodial and maintenance services.

The survey also mentioned that the St. Charles Parish School System hadout-sourced 50 percent of its custodial services and had already reduced costs.

Boughton said if a company is selected to do custodial and maintenance work, the school board would insist that the company take over the benefits of the St. John custodial workers so they do not lose anything.”We owe it to the taxpayers to at least look at this,” said Boughton.

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