Wayland school considers custodians cut
By Ryan Lewis
School officials say Wayland Union Schools is considering bids to privatize its custodial services.
Superintendent Eivor Swan said the administration was attempting to close a $1.4 million deficit in the current year’s budget. Cutting its custodial and groundskeeping staff of 22 part- and full-time members and bidding the work out to a private company could save an estimated $450,000, she said.
The custodial staff was already working under a contract that expired in September 2009 and were in negotiations; administrators were set to meet with union officials Tuesday, Jan. 5, to hear how the group’s proposal would compare with the three private bids the district has already obtained.
Swan said, “This is a horribly difficult decision for any school board to consider. The number one task they have is that they need to be good stewards of funds from Lansing, which have been decreasing.
“They’re absolutely focused on keeping that money in classrooms as much as possible; $450,000 in annual savings is something they have to consider.”
The results of the Jan. 5 meeting were not available before The Allegan County News went to press.
School board members will address the issue at their next meeting on Monday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. at the transportation department building, 851 Wildcat Drive.
Resident Jeff Salisbury of Wayland opposes the outsourcing and doesn’t plan to wait until the school board meeting to do something about it.
The 24-year journalism teacher, recently retired from the Wayland district, has organized a Solidarity Rally and Songfest for Sunday, Jan. 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. at United Church of Wayland, 411 E. Superior St.
“I’ve got four grandkids in the district,” Salisbury said. “I’m concerned that 23 or more people that live, work and spend their salaries around here might not be able to do it anymore.”
He said that while the school board may have the right to outsource the jobs, he thinks the school district—as the community’s largest employer—has an obligation to that community.
“You want those dollars to stay in the community,” he said.
He said he organized the rally to give others who oppose the privatization the chance to sign a petition or drop off any petitions they have already gathered.
Salisbury said that though he works part time for the Michigan Education Association—the statewide teachers’ union—he is organizing the rally as a citizen.
He said he hopes the open-house-style rally will include some refreshments and even some live entertainment, courtesy guitarist and folk musician Mick Lane.
Lane got involved through Salisbury’s efforts on the social networking site Facebook, where Salisbury has set up both a fan page and a group page.
Created just before Christmas, the fan page—“Keep Privatization Out Of The Wayland Union Schools”—has drawn 676 fans; a similarly named group page has 442 members.
For those interested in getting a petition, e-mail JeffSalisbury@charter.net.
As for the custodians themselves, Swan said the district had no complaint.
“We have excellent custodians. They do a very good job. This is something that the board was forced by Lansing to consider.”
Par of the deficit was caused by the state’s $167 per-pupil funding cut, which shorted the district’s revenue by approximately $500,000, Swan said.
For the 2010-11 budget, the projected deficit is projected to be $2.2 million up to 3 million, “depending on what state ends up doing this month,” Swan said.
Contact Ryan Lewis at email@example.com or (269) 673-5534.