Those concerned about a proposed plan to outsource service positions such as bus drivers and custodians in the West Bloomfield School District dominated Monday night's Board of Education meeting with passionate pleas.
Public comments came from more than 10 people, some not associated with the district, at the meeting in . More than 50 others sat quietly in the audience, except when they gave loud applause to those who methodically stated their cases. They all wore bright orange pins with the word "privatization" with a slash through it.
"These (service) people have an important role in educating our children," said Troy Beasley, a teacher in the Waterford School District. "Outsourcing is not good for our students or our community."
Beasley added that even his 14-year-old son has questioned the plan, telling his father that allowing private companies to employ a school’s service personnel is a "bad idea." Beasley’s son also told his father that they have "done this in Walled Lake, and things are just different now."
All the commenters seemed to think things will be "different" in a variety of ways should the school board pass the measure, including the loss of people who truly care about their careers to downright unsafe driving practices from transportation companies that don’t know the intricate laws of driving a school bus.
The suggested transportation companies "don’t hire managers with transportation experience," said Lynne Robertson, the school district’s transportation supervisor. "That’s when accidents happen. That’s when students get hurt. (Drivers) make mistakes because they don’t know the law."
The school board first brought the , authorizing a request from administration to begin accepting proposals from private companies that want to take over management of district service personnel.
Trustee David Einstandig said at the time that an investigation would take place to see if it made sense financially to outsource the positions — service personnel would likely be paid less if on the payrolls of private companies — but also said that no one yet knew the potential value of the move.
President Bruce Tobin reiterated that the district’s dire financial straits is the only reason that the board is considering the controversial privatization issue.
"It pains me to be in this condition," Tobin said. "You are exceptional employees. But we are looking at millions of dollars in deficits. We’ve cut back everywhere."
He added that "at the end of the day, we have to make sure" that critical classroom functions stay in tact even if other areas have to be cut.
Other highlights included:
- Five support staff employees received recognition for their work in the form of "star certificates." They included Weeam Barno, Deborah Wells Cronberger, Gloria Kollman, Lisa Perri, and Susan Rambo.
- The board approved $1.29 million in bond issues for Phase III of construction projects at athletic facilities.
- The board approved a request from Roosevelt Elementary administration to apply to the federal government to receive "school-wide" status for Title I funds. These federal funds currently can be used only for children within the school who meet certain poverty criteria. The "school-wide" status would ensure that the funds could be used for all the children at the school.