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VOL. 128 | NO. 82 | Friday, April 26, 2013

School Board Votes Down Custodial Contract Twice

By Bill Dries

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Countywide school board members twice voted down outsourcing custodial services in the merged school district to the company GCA Thursday, April 25, leaving undone the second step of the board’s February decision to outsource the services.

Interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson “implored” the board to move ahead with the awarding of a contract or risk being ready for the Aug. 5 start of the first school year of the consolidated school district.

“I implore you,” he said. “We really are at risk. We’ve got so many things to do. The information is here. Make a decision.”

Outsourcing the jobs of cleaning and maintaining schools was a key recommendation of the consolidation planning commission. Shelby County Schools outsources custodial services. Memphis City Schools does not.

Hopson and his administration recommended awarding the one-year contract with renewal options to GCA over Aramark in a second request for proposal process. The second RFP process followed the board’s rejection in February of an earlier bid by GCA also recommended by the administration.

The $21.9 million GCA contract recommendation, which required 12 votes to pass, failed Thursday by two votes the first time and one vote the second time.

The Thursday votes by the school board at a special meeting included a vote to award the contract to Aramark. That was also defeated by a wider margin. It only got four “yes” votes.

Four to six school board member were absent during the series of votes.

"We're not just getting a bottom-line price," said school board member Patrice Robinson, who voted against the GCA contract and questioned how the school system would verify the schools would be cleaner. "What is the quality?

School board chairman Billy Orgel said he will call a special meeting after the Tuesday, April 30 regularly scheduled voting meeting of the board to again take up the question as well as a coming recommendation from the administration on a partial outsourcing of transportation services.

The board meets the same day that all sides in the schools merger case are back before Memphis Federal Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays. The hearing is before the board meeting.

The day promises to be a busy one for the school board. On the agenda of the regularly scheduled meeting is a resolution to begin the process of considering closing 11 schools – 10 in the city of Memphis and one in Millington in the 2014-2015 school year. The resolution specifically starts the process of holding public hearings in the affected communities.

Hopson proposed the additional closings just months after the board voted to close four other Memphis schools starting with the 2013-2014 school year.

While the school board didn’t get to it Thursday, Hopson and his staff’s recommendation is that transportation services for the consolidated school district go to a hybrid outsourcing model.

The recommendation would extend for one year the Memphis City Schools system’s contract with Durham School Services. But Durham would operate bus routes only in the northwest and southwest regions of the county – areas within the city of Memphis – for a contract of $9.8 million.

It would mean about three times the administrative costs to the school system of a full-on outsourcing of all transportation to Durham. But the contractor cost goes from $22 million to $9.8 million.

The increase in administrative costs from the full on outsourcing to the hybrid comes to $11.8 million more for the school system.

But the savings in contractor costs from the outsourcing to the hybrid is a bit more at $12.1 million.

The differential when both are factored in comes to $374,362.

The areas where Durham would continue to operate are parts of the city where Hopson has proposed closing 10 more schools. If the board approves those closings, the students in those schools would qualify for bus transportation to their new schools in many cases.

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