217 FWCS Janitors Could Be Cut

By Laura Donaldson
By John W. Davis

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 1, 2010 at 11:30 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Fort Wayne Community School officials authorized a plan to outsource 217 janitorial staff positions Tuesday night.

On March 22, district officials agreed to reduce $2 million dollars in custodial services.

However, the new plan goes well above that figure.

The plan will save about $4 million dollars every school year from the district's custodial services budget.

"It was a done deal. There was no point in me standing up after this and asking them to keep us in mind because we were taking out of the equation tonight," said AFSCME President Michelle Tribolet.

Tribolet pleaded with the district for months said her last proposal to the district would have saved $1.9 million dollars but FWCS didn't accept that plan.

During a PowerPoint presentation on Custodial Services, financial leaders said janitorial services is not the core business of FWCS.

|Meanwhile, the measure was approved 6 to 1 to allow Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson to finalize a contract with Sodexo Management services.

Sodexo is large facility management company with 125,000 employees and operations in all fifty states.

Sodexo will be in charge of hiring and cleaning all FWCS schools and administration buildings.

Board Member Kevin Brown cast the only "no" vote.

Brown said the outsourcing situation could become "like the NFL and the scrubs."

Brown's simile refers to a 1987 situation when the NFL hired replacement players because of financial disputes.

Brown said he is also concerned about the usual standard of cleanliness that teachers have become accustomed to.

"Within that two weeks it will give me an opportunity to go ahead and do my own investigation within the budget... maybe even make recommendations," said FWCS Board Member Kevin Brown.

Officials say current FWCS custodial employees will be able to interview with Sodexo.

However, no jobs for current FWCS employees will be guaranteed.

We've also learned Sodexo will hire 22 fewer night custodians.

If approved on June 14, Sodexo will take over custodial services on July 19.

School officials explain the lengthy nine week process.

“We needed to take some time to get proposals in from outside companies,” Fort Wayne Community Schools Public Information Officer Krista Stockman said. “We have gone through that process and now this is just a culmination of that.”

During the last two months administrators collected proposals from 11 outside custodial companies and one from their current custodial staff.

After reviewing information and having meetings with the current custodial staff administrators are expected to give a recommendation to the board about out-sourcing the janitorial staff.

“The need to cut has not gone away even though that conversation happened a few months ago. That need is still there,” Stockman said. “And that is something we said we would continue to look at.”

The Fort Wayne Community School Custodian Union Representative Michelle Tribolet has attended several school board meetings since the idea of cut backs was proposed in March.

Tribolet has stood up at each meeting and read the following statement to the board members.

“By gathering bids you are looking at laying off over 200 people,” Tribolet said. “You may say you will try to guarantee us an interview with the outsource company, but an interview is not a job. Even if we do get hired in it will be a lesser wage, with most likely fewer hours, and little or no insurance. In our eyes it is not necessary to even get bids to outsource us because we are more than willing to work together and with the school system to save the money needed to make sure the kids will not suffer. We, as your loyal employees, are very disheartened by the fact that you are looking at laying us off instead of talking with us about saving the money needed. It is a shame that we are standing with cuts on a silver platter, willing to work with you and all you can think about is getting rid of us. I will be here every meeting reminding you of the fact that there are going to be more than 200 people affected by this along with their families and the community. And reminding you that as we, your loyal employees, are willing to make adjustments in how we do things to save our jobs. Please keep this in mind as you go over bids form companies that are only out for a profit and care nothing for the school system, just about the money they can get from it.”

Stockman says tough decisions must be made.

“This is a difficult time,” Stockman said. “None of the cuts we've made were things that we wanted to cut. We didn't want to cut teachers, we didn't want to close school buildings, we haven't wanted to any of this. So, we understand that it's a scary time for people; we don't diminish that fact at all. But we do need to focus on what's best for our students and making sure we are providing the best education for our students.”

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