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BoE’s claims that outsourcing saves money don’t add up

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William Dick  is the former head custodian at Fox Run Elementary School

To the Editor:

The Norwalk Public School System is being privatized one school at a time. This is supposed to save the city money. Exactly, how are we saving money if no Board of Education custodian is losing a job, if benefits and unemployment insurance are still being paid and, in addition, we are now paying a private company? I would like to know specifically which accounts are saving money.

It was claimed that schools would be privatized by attrition. Why then are schools that are fully staffed having their custodians pulled out and moved to other buildings and the schools they left privatized? Buildings missing only one custodian are having all their custodians moved to other schools and contracted (privatized) custodians moved in. This is contrary to everything the taxpayers were told.

Do the Norwalk taxpayers know that the Norwalk School System is paying for the cleaning supplies that the United Services of America’s contracted custodians use? The taxpayers also pay to supply and maintain the equipment they use.

When Mr. Lyons was queried why the contracted custodians wore the same uniforms as our employees he said they represent us. Who do they work for, United Services of America or the Norwalk Board of Education?

A complaint was raised about the amount of money spent on custodial overtime. This subject has come up in the past. Let’s set the record straight. Outside groups who use the schools for afterschool functions pay to rent the school buildings. Custodians are only paid for the time that they work. Where does the rest of the rental money go? The custodians do not get it. Is this rental income taken into account to offset the bottom line that is the total expense for overtime?

If management had simply hired more floaters, most overtime would have been alleviated. Floaters do not receive any benefits and are paid 10% less than beginning custodians. They would be able to handle most of the overtime in the system, without receiving overtime pay, problem solved.

How much is United Services of America paid for custodial overtime? The contract should be made public.

Who is responsible for overseeing these workers? Is it Bill Hodel, Director of Facilities, George Giannitti, Coordinator of Custodians; or someone else?

Let’s talk about the cleanliness survey that has been touted as wonderful. How many surveys were sent out to determine the satisfaction with the original four privatized schools and how many were returned. The total number of respondents was 43. Is this truly representative?

The company being evaluated should not have anything to do with the survey, nor should the Board of Education. It should be conducted through Survey Monkey or equivalent and the results made public. The number of respondents should also be made public.

The Board makes decisions based upon the information it is given. Apparently it is only given enough information necessary to make decisions that are prejudiced in favor of those supplying the information.

I have one final question for Mike Lyons: The custodian’s contract expires in June 2016. On March 10, 2014 in the comments section of Nancy On Norwalk he responded to a comment about why the city couldn’t just contract the whole thing out (custodial services). He responded, “ …with the collective bargaining statutes in this State, that’s just about impossible. Attrition is a slower process, but as time goes forward and we gradually shift over, we will capture more and more of those savings.”

Is it Mike Lyons’s and the Norwalk Board of Education’s intent to not renew the custodians’ contract thus speeding privatization of all Norwalk schools?

William Dick

2 comments

Mike Lyons August 14, 2015 at 12:16 am

Virtually all of the statements in this letter rehash old issues that have been repeatedly addressed in dozens of NON articles, so I’m not going to rehash all the answers, too. Simply search for “custodian” in NON and you can see the articles answering these questions (and completely refuting the allegations).

I will address the ONE new item in this letter. Mr. Dick asks “Is it Mike Lyons’s and the Norwalk Board of Education’s intent to not renew the custodians’ contract thus speeding privatization of all Norwalk schools?” I know of no Board members (myself included) who intend to not renew the custodians contract in 2016; I fully expect it to be renewed pretty much as is (subject to normal adjustments on salary and benefits).

Bill August 14, 2015 at 10:11 pm

We shouldn’t be paying janitors more than $30k a year, that’s the market rate, anything above is extortion, end of story.

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