DeKalb school workers ask for furloughs, no outsourcing

January 4, 2011 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

Threatened with losing their jobs to outsourcing, DeKalb County school employees said on Monday night they would be willing to have their pay cut to save their positions.

About 250 school employees rallied before the school board to protest a proposal to privatize as many as 900 custodian and service jobs.

“We’re very, very disturbed and we’re not going to sit by quietly,” Organization of DeKalb Educators’ President David Schutten told the board. “It’s easy to pick on the people who make the smallest salaries.”

As Schutten spoke, about 200 employees wearing “no outsourcing” buttons stood behind him. Another 50 employees stood in the hallway outside the board room after police refused to let them in because of fire code capacity.

The board took no action Monday, but interim superintendent Ramona Tyson assured employees that she is doing diligent research on the outsourcing issue. The board likely will vote next month.

Some workers pleaded with the board to consider furloughs or pay cuts instead of outsourcing.

“We are willing to take cutting our pay or more furloughs to help with the balancing of the budget,” maintenance worker Terrell Short, a 15-year veteran, told the board. “We feel we are part of a large family. If at all possible, we would like to keep the family together.”

Last month, the school system collected bids from vendors in response to its requests for proposals advertised for custodians and maintenance positions. School staff is now reviewing those bids to determine if the move is cost-effective and will make a recommendation to the board.

Tyson on Monday said she contacted retired DeKalb administrators and learned that the district had many problems 10 years ago when it outsourced custodian jobs. Tyson said the schools were dirty and there were inadequate numbers of employees working.

“We are going to take the time to take a look at the district’s attempt when we tried to do this years back. It was not a success for the school system years ago,” Tyson told the board. “We are going to look thoroughly at the challenges and lessons learned.”

Robert Hampton, an electrician for DeKalb schools for nine years, said he understands the district’s financial situation, but wants to see the numbers. The district is facing an estimated $50 million shortfall for next year’s budget.

“Show us the facts to prove it would save money and we’ll take a pay cut,” Hampton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If they will save money, then furlough us the difference and let us keep our jobs.”

Hampton’s job is not at risk, but his friends’ positions are and he feels his job will be next. The proposal calls for privatizing custodians and maintenance jobs, including groundskeeping, painting, window glazing, heating and air-conditioning, equipment repair and pest control.

Angela Tucker-Holmes, head custodian at Eagle Woods Academy in Lithonia, said she is worried not only about losing her job, but also about the safety of students.

“We help kids out. We’re the first line of security. We’re out in the yard with them and we’re a family,” said Tucker-Holmes, who had two children graduate from DeKalb schools.

Tucker-Holmes said she was unaware of the outsourcing proposal until she received a note directing her to escort vendors around her school and explain her job.

“It was underhanded. They put in on the website and didn’t tell the employees,” she said. “We deserve better.”

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