While the controversial proposal to hire a private, for-profit company to run alternative education programs has been delayed for three months and has been the main topic of conversation about the Muscogee County School District during the past month, another controversial proposal generated so much heat that the administration has decided to not even ask the Muscogee County School Board to vote on it.
In a plan that MCSD operations chief David Goldberg said would “radically change” who cleans the district’s schools, the administration would have consolidated the four contracts it has with janitorial service companies into one contract for outsourced custodians. The proposal would have moved MCSD employees working as custodians at the 32 elementary schools to the 12 middle schools and nine high schools, and the contracted custodians would have been placed at all the elementary schools.
The administration emphasized that no current MCSD custodians would lose their jobs, although many would be relocated. The problem the administration was trying to solve, MCSD operations chief Goldberg explained during his presentation to the board two months ago, is the logistical trouble and communication breakdowns causing poor service and responsibility arguments amid the tangle of dealing with four companies as well as MCSD’s own employees. This is especially challenging at schools served by a mix of employed and contracted custodians, Goldberg said.
According to the original timeline, the MCSD administration was supposed to bring to the board during Monday’s meeting its recommendation to hire the one contractor for outsourced custodians. But that item wasn’t on the agenda, so the Ledger-Enquirer asked Goldberg why before the meeting.
“Sometimes you’ve got to step back and punt to get a better strategic position,” Goldberg said.
Asked whether it’s still a viable proposal, Goldberg said, “It’s still a proposal that’s out there, but we’re not bringing it to the board.”
Asked when it would be brought to the board, Goldberg said, “Not any time soon.”
Asked why, he said, “The climate just isn’t conducive right now to bring a systemic change like that.”
So the district’s custodian system will stay the same for next school year? “That’s correct,” Goldberg said.
During last month’s board meeting, retired Mathews Elementary School teacher Kathy Gierer and PTA treasurer Alecia Cravey made passionate pleas against the proposal, explaining how valuable custodians Cleo Smith and Joe Brown had become to the Mathews family through their combined 58 years working there. Tuesday, in emails to the Ledger-Enquirer, Cravey and Gierer shared their reaction to the administration dropping the proposal.
Cravey wrote, “The Mathews PTA is overjoyed to hear the news that our very own Mr. Cleo Smith and Mr. Joe Brown will continue to serve our teachers, students and faculty in the coming years! In a day and age where the character of hard working people get overlooked in an effort to meet budget demands, it is a relief to know that our School Board took the time to acknowledge the intense dedication of these two men!”
Gierer wrote, “I'm absolutely delighted that the school district has decided to do the right thing. Cleo Smith and Joe Brown are integral members of the Mathews Elementary School family. It would have been devastating for everyone from the smallest pre-K student to the principal to lose these caring, hard-working gentlemen. I'm very happy for Cleo and Joe and the whole Mathews family, as well as every elementary school community that would have been adversely impacted by this proposal.”