UPDATE FROM DR. SHANK
On April 18th the School Board voted to direct the superintendent to seek proposals for the potential contracting of custodial, maintenance, and grounds services. On May 31st, I met with principals, maintenance, custodial, and grounds staff to inform them that the School Board had directed the superintendent to seek proposals and informed them that we were in process and the reasons for doing so. After the announcement, I asked for questions and answers and presented to them a company called ABM to assist with those questions. This meeting was an attempt to provide information and at no point was it stated that employees would be terminated.
That evening an email was sent announcing the proposed changes. Contained in that email were some errors implying that the District had already contracted with ABM and that services would begin July1st. It also stated that at a May 6th board meeting, a financial emergency was declared. No financial emergency, as defined in Idaho Code, had been declared May 6th.The confusion about a financial emergency may come from the fact that the District, in good faith, amended its agenda on April 18, 2019 to include contract facility services as an agenda item to seek an RFP. By law, the agenda can only be amended if an emergency is declared with the justification reflected in the minutes. The reason stated for the amendment was “needed emergency monies for the District.” The monies referenced are specific to facility needs and related to the recent bond failure.
The intent of this update is to state that the district has not contracted with ABM and that we are only at the proposals stage of the process. No decision has been made and no proposal has been submitted.
Finally, it is the intention of the District to carefully review any proposals and how it may or may not impact our operations or personnel.
Superintendent, Cassia Schools
Cassia School trustees are interested in privatizing maintenance and facility operations, pending contract negotiations and signed agreements. Over all facility management and building needs have been in discussion for several years. Specific study over the last three months, has led the Board to investigate a possible contract with national facility managers, ABM.
For the past weeks, the district has been working with ABM to begin the process of contracting for services in custodial, maintenance, and grounds. In brief, this means the district would no longer manage these services.
Cassia is the fifth district to discus a contract with this particular company and one of dozens in the state to move aspects of operations to independent groups. ABM maintains a professional facilities program with proven expertise in 500 institutions across the country. Their competence and reliability have been checked and referenced, according to superintendent Jim Shank.
Employees would have an opportunity to transfer to ABM. Salary and benefits would be comparable. It is the intent that employees will not make less than their current salary. In most cases, custodians will remain at their current school. Improved equipment and supplies, ongoing training, and job advancement are advantages provided by ABM. Matching skill sets with needs, square footage, overall usage and enrollment are factors for determining accurate facility programming.
According to Vice President of Operations, Dean Fewkes, ABM believes in the culture of custodians and maintenance staff being a part of the school day. “A clean and safe learning environment is the goal every day.”
At a special board meeting on May 6th, the Board directed staff to enter in discussion with ABM, for the purpose of contracting services to significantly reduce costs this coming school year and beyond.
The primary reason for making this move is the desire to make the most efficient use of resources, time and expertise. “We are in the education business, not in the facility management business. We can’t address many important educational issues because we spend a disproportionate amount of time managing our buildings”, Trustee Darin Moon commented to fellow board members.
Business manager, Chris James, predicts an initial savings in the range of 5-15%, based on current maintenance and operations budgets districtwide. Saving results are projected at $300K, the first year. The goal is to take the savings and put it back into facilities and add to reserves.
Outside management will satisfy four critical areas of needs: equipment, training, oversight and employee benefits. This transitional phase will take place during June with summer work and outdoor maintenance to begin July 1. The district does not anticipate any stoppage of work. Contract details need to reflect district needs at individual schools and district wide needs.
Joe Scully, business development and client sales for ABM, confirmed the ability to transition in a 30-45 day window. “There is ample lead time to get hiring, initial training, and equipment needs accomplished. We have done this hundreds of time and have a positive outlook and process in place.”
Dr. Shank introduced the topic to district employees by reviewing immediate growth needs, recent bond failures, aging facilities and the need to provide efficient and improved services. Dr. Shank confirmed the Board’s decision by saying, “Looking ahead, there will be many questions. Change is never easy and we will work to ensure that the change process is managed as well as is possible.”
As the Board has not seen or discussed details of a contract, the Board will consider any contractual terms at their June 20th meeting.
Cassia school district manages 18 student occupied buildings with a total facility management of nearly 60 buildings.