Paulding board members are nearing a vote on whose employees will clean school buildings.
A contract with the private company Aramark for all custodial services in schools and administrative offices ends June 30.
Chief Financial Officer Steve Barnette said Aramark’s employment of custodians rather than the school district saves the district about $3 million annually.
However, some board members have said they want to consider a change after hearing numerous complaints about unsatisfactory work by Aramark — from dirty bathrooms to lack of equipment maintenance.
Paulding schools Superintendent Brian Otott on March 12 said he would have a recommendation for board members by April.
He said he planned to issue requests for proposals from cleaning companies for being part of “hybrid” methods of providing the service.
Otott showed board members two options that require the district to hire new employees.
One option designated a school district “custodial director and compliance officer” as being responsible for overseeing the cleaning program, as well as monitoring contract compliance and supporting local school administrators and custodial staff, Otott said.
He said the district would need to hire at least 60 custodians who would be assigned to clean and maintain facilities during the school day and be responsible for cleaning each school’s offices, media center and cafeteria.
A private company’s employees would clean the buildings after traditional school hours and district employees would check the private employees’ work after opening school buildings in the mornings, Otott said.
He also said specifying in the contract the level of service the district wanted from the private company would be “very important.”
The other option placed an employee of a private company in charge of the total cleaning program, with a school district “custodial supervisor” monitoring the company’s compliance with the contract terms and serving as a liaison between the company and school district officials.
Rather than the company having light maintenance duties, the district would hire new “maintenance technicians” to handle such chores as changing light bulbs and air filters and “support our principals” by doing time-consuming projects like assembling furniture, Otott said.
Board members Glen Albright and Theresa Lyons said they looked forward to the issue being resolved.
Lyons said she hoped the board could “maintain trust in our leadership” and give Otott a chance to find a solution.
“This has taken up a lot of time,” she said.
Albright said he wanted the board to consider Otott’s April recommendation and make a decision.
“We’ve just got to trust his decision,” Albright said.
After that, he said he wanted Otott and district officials to administer it rather than board members continuing to be directly involved with answering complaints and other concerns.
“You know our expectations,” he told Otott. “I look forward to this finally being put to bed.”
Board member Nick Chester said approval of a plan requiring the district to hire new employees would affect the amount of money available for classroom spending.
Barnette said in January the district spends a total of about $6.9 million to employ Aramark, compared to $10 million if the same number of custodians were district employees based on factors like the cost of employee benefits and workers compensation.
Chester noted that the majority of board members who approved the outsourcing plan in 2015 are no longer present.
“I hope you’re not wanting to kick the can down the road and not make a tough decision,” he told board members. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Board member Jason Anavitarte said he believed the school district should have worked to make contractors more accountable before now.
Vice Chairman Kim Cobb, a regular critic of Aramark’s performance, said she believed the company had provided a lower level of service than what the district expected.
She said some unspecified changes “should have been made” before the board voted in 2015 to hire Aramark.
In addition, she said the $6 million custodial contract is among the largest contracts in the school district’s history “and that’s why we’ve spent so much time on it,” she said.
The board voted to hire Aramark in April 2015 under a five-year contract with annual reviews in an effort to lower personnel costs. About 90 school district workers were affected and Aramark hired most of them after the district eliminated their positions, officials have said.
After continued complaints from board members, parents and teachers, the school board in early 2018 narrowly voted to retain the company.