The board room was packed for the Sumner Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday night, as the district’s almost 250 custodians were there to find out if they would soon be working for a private company. Although many expected a close vote, the final tally came up 7-4 against hiring Knoxville-based GCA services to take over cleaning for the entire district. Advocates cited the roughly $1 million in projected savings, while opponents said those savings would likely pale in comparison to what the system would lose if it outsourced its personnel.
The large audience clapped, cheered, and laughed as a series of speakers stepped to podium to address the board. Every one of them opposed the move to outsource.
District four representative Beth Cox made it clear she, too, was skeptical of outsourcing and the promises of GCA Services. “I can’t get the numbers to add up,” she said, referring to the fact that despite a promised savings of almost $1 million, GCA promises to actually increase the amount of custodian hours for every school. Add these extra hours to the promised pay-raise - as high as $1.25 an hour for janitors making minimum wage - and Cox was not sure how the company was going to actually save the board money.
Cox also revealed the results of her research on the company, noting the opinions from current clients were “very mixed.” Cheatham County schools said they had not received savings. Another school official, whose name was not revealed, said half the GCA custodians for that county did not speak English. One Metro Nashville school board member said they had to cut hours and benefits to realize savings.
District two representative Tim Brewer, who seconded the motion to approve GCA, spoke in favor of outsourcing. He pointed out that outsourcing would provide every custodian who was retained - those who passed a background check and were approved by their principal - a raise, which most have not received in several years. He said GCA spoke well of the schools' current custodial staff, and the school officials he spoke to at other counties, including those in Wilson, Williamson, Robertson, and Memphis schools all endorsed the company.
The final vote found only Brewer, Vanessa Silkwood, Vice-Chairman Danny Hale, and Chairman Don Long in favor of the motion, while Cox, David Brown, Ted Wise, Will Duncan, Shannon Dunn, Andy Daniels, and Glen Gregory cast their votes against. This earned a resounding cheer from the standing-room-only boardroom.
by Corey Conley
For complete story, see the Friday, April 20 edition of The Hendersonville Standard.