An outpouring of public support for the district’s custodians at Thursday’s meeting likely spared them their jobs – at least for the time being.
Following more than an hour of pleas from two dozen students, teachers and residents, the board voted to freeze expansion of the and to retain the 13 in-house custodians whose jobs were on the chopping block.
While the board’s decision was met with a standing ovation Thursday night, it may end up having repercussions that are far from popular.
The district’s depends on the $450,000 infusion that custodial outsourcing would have provided. With that no longer forthcoming, the nearly half-million dollar shortfall must be made up elsewhere.
“A big ticket item has to get chopped or several small ticket items have to get chopped,” said John Mancinelli, the only board member who ultimately voted to outsource the custodians. “But something has to be resolved because the budget’s been approved. You can’t just add a big chunk of money or remove a big chunk of money.”
After the meeting, board members met with the administration in closed session to gauge what the district might be able to cut.
“We asked the superintendent to give us a whole bunch of options,” Mancinelli said. “If you don’t make the adjustment in the budget this year, what has to get cut?”
Board president Michael Rosenberg said the cuts could be made anywhere, depending on the superintendent’s recommendation. Even the custodial staff still isn’t in the clear.
“The budget was made with these positions being cut,” Rosenberg said of the custodians originally slated for layoffs. “If the administration comes back and gives us reasons why we should revisit the custodial issue, we’re going to do that.”
A majority of the board had come to Thursday’s meeting prepared to lay off 13 custodial staff between both middle schools and the . Those let go were to be replaced with custodians supplied by Aramark Management Services at a cost of $715,935 for the 2012-2013 school year. Another $13,400 was earmarked for Edvocate School Support Services, a company the district hired last year to monitor Aramark’s work.
After hearing from the public, however, a majority of the board opposed resolutions to lay off custodians, expand the scope of Aramark’s contract with the district and hire Edvocate to monitor Aramark.
"I think they were caught off guard," said Mancinelli, referring to several board members who appeared genuinely torn on their votes after listening to pleas from the public. "I think they forgot why the whole thing was on the agenda to begin with."
Only Mancinelli ultimately voted for all three resolutions. Rosenberg and Susan Gioia abstained on the resolutions and all four other board members present voted against them. Board members Eugene Banta and Ron Barbarulo were absent at Thursay’s meeting.