MADISON, NJ – A packed media center at Madison High School was the scene of an emotional four-hour discussion on outsourcing custodial services in the district.
A vote on the contract was postponed from the Tuesday, May 8, meeting until the next board meeting on May 22.
Numerous parents, students and residents spoke about the importance of retaining the current staff and what those individuals had meant to school children in Madison.
Business Administrator Gary Lane gave a presentation on the benefits of outsourcing while still retaining seven currently on the 20-member staff. In addition, 7.5 positions would be available at Aramark Management Services for those not retained as regular staff in Madison.
The administration explained that outsourcing would result in 36.5 total staff members at no additional cost to the district. Meanwhile, the district would save on pension costs, overtime and operating costs. “We’re woefully deficient in manpower,” Lane said.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said some areas had been long neglected and there are significant infrastructure problems, such as boilers, lighting and air conditioning among the six buildings and property. The contract would cost $1.3 million for the 2012-2013 school year.
But emotions ran high as people spoke of the constancy of custodians and their relationships with students. Police Officer Jerry Mantone said he had researched several towns that tried outsourcing and found that the quality of the work was poor and that there was a large turnover.
Several high school students told the board that some custodians came to every game or were simply available when they had a problem. One student urged the board to survey those attending the district’s schools so they would have a voice.
Resident Jamie Duffy said she had looked into the New Haven School District, which went with the lowest bidder, but ultimately brought custodial services back in house. She said she also researched the background of Aramark Services and learned there had been numerous lawsuits and scandals with the company, which employs 250,000 people.
One resident commented that “proposals look good on paper” but the board should be concerned with “what’s best for the children,” which includes “a sense of caring and responsibility.”
Resident Steve Wells urged the board, “Listen to the students who spoke up tonight. Their priorities are in the right place.” He referred to “the loyal employees who have given their heart to this district.”
Board member David Arthur said of the meeting, “This is very real and very powerful. We must weigh the plusses and minuses of every decision we make.” He said he voted yes to postpone the decision so it would not appear to be happening “behind closed doors. Reflection is a good thing. We should take the two weeks.”
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