Madison School Custodians’ Jobs Saved; Outsourcing Services Withdrawn

Joe Cecala, head of the Madison custodians' union, displays petitions from community residents as well as a separate one from students in the Madison School District. Credits: Liz Keill
MADISON, NJ – The Madison High School Media Center was once again filled with parents, students and teachers for the Tuesday, May 22, Board of Education meeting to learn the outcome of a proposal to outsource custodial services.
“We listened to the public and we will not entertain outsourcing. It’s been pulled from the agenda,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said at the beginning of the meeting. He reviewed the recommendation to outsource the work to Aramark Management Services, while retaining part of the current staff. Rossi said it was important to come to closure on the issue and commended the district’s custodians for their “patience and professionalism and very, very reasonable bargaining.”
He said the board would vote on a new contract that evening, which they did unanimously. “We need to move forward in a spirit of congeniality,” Rossi added. “I respect everyone’s opinion and I didn’t mean to cut anyone off,” he said of the previous two board meetings, when heated remarks were made by some members of the public. He said at the time there was some misinformation that needed to be addressed.
Those attending applauded his comments. Board President Lisa Ellis spoke on behalf of the board. “I’m very proud to sit at this table with these people. They are completely committed,” she said. Ellis added that the board had spent a year and a half on the issue. “Outsourcing was not right for Madison at this time,” she said and noted it was a painful process. “Where does this leave us? We’re still understaffed.” She said the goal is to maintain the buildings at a higher standard and to initiate new performance and supervision strategies.

Ellis noted, “We need everyone to step up.” She said community service is strong in Madison, citing May Day when 1,000 residents turn out to weed and mulch all over town. “We need that advocacy to continue” especially with the possibility of future cuts in state aid.  
Steve Wells of Woodland Road commended the board for its decision. “People are not apathetic,” he said, referring to the recent turmoil at Borough Council over firing the borough administrator. “We fight for what we care about.” He encouraged those present to be partners with the board and attend meetings. “The board is willing to listen. But you can only listen when the public is here.”
Head of the custodians’ union, Joe Cecala, thanked the board. “We want to work with you. We’ve done it in the past,” he said. “We worked hard and are willing to work harder. I’m at a loss for words.” But he thanked all those who have spoken out and signed petitions “for saving our jobs.”
In other board news, Business Administrator Gary Lane said bond refinancing of $29 million would see a $954,000 savings over the life of some of the bonds, about double what had been projected. He also anticipates another $600,000 is savings for the balance of $21 million. That would have a positive impact on taxes over the next few years, he said. In addition, the school district will be in synch with the borough’s fiscal year.
The June 26 meeting will include a curriculum review. The public was urged to attend.

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