Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 | 11:08 p.m.
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Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones released a memo on Thursday to reassure employees that the School District is not currently exploring privatization of custodial and transportation positions.
The memo – titled “Misinformation on Outsourcing” – comes three days after the School Board considered establishing a policy on outsourcing as a measure of “last resort.” Currently, the School District has no formal privatization policy, although some food service and maintenance staff positions have been outsourced in the past.
The recent controversy over privatization stems from the Gibson Report, a privately funded study released in September that reviewed the district’s academic performance and operational services.
The study recommended that the School District look into hiring outside custodians and bus drivers to cut operational costs. The study has “devastated” the district’s support staff union, which represents custodial and transportation staff, said union president John Carr.
“The morale in the support staff and teaching staff isn’t zero — I wish I could get it up to zero,” Carr said, addressing the School Board on Thursday night. “Their biggest fear is when are you going to drop the bomb? The scare is real.”
Jones’ memo reminded employees the report’s recommendations are “not directives” and that “the study recommends (outsourcing) only as a last resort.”
“That means I will consider each and every recommendation and may choose a few to implement; it does not mean they automatically go into effect,” Jones said in the memo.
The School District and its support staff union are currently in contract negotiations. The district has been seeking $56 million in concessions from its four employee unions to balance its budget.
In his memo, Jones said privatization is not being discussed in negotiations or internally, but “only sources outside of the District are pushing this issue and the misinformation that is surrounding it.”
Support staff attending Thursday night’s School Board meeting said they weren’t convinced their jobs wouldn’t be outsourced. About 10 union members addressed the School Board, imploring them to tread carefully around the issue of privatization.
A couple of them pointed to examples of privatization efforts that didn’t work out. Others raised a safety issue with background checks although the district said they plan to enforce them for outside firms working in schools. One union member said the Gibson Report “sounds like union busting.”
Instead of asking support staff and teachers for concessions, Carr said the School District should consider cutting administrator pay and stop hiring consultants.
“I appreciate the memo that went out to employees this morning,” he said. “But if we are really concerned about ‘Ready By Exit’ and the quality of education, why won’t we look at the top of the chain?”