Laura Whittaker, President of T/E teachers union (TEEA) delivered a status update and message of support at Monday’s school board meeting for members of TENIG (Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group) based on the District’s possible outsourcing. (TENIG members include the custodians, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and secretaries.) Whittaker disclosed that members of TENIG’s bargaining union have received notice of their potential layoffs from the District.
The School Board is required to give TENIG a written notice of their intention to issue an RFP to seek outsourcing bids at least 120-days in advance. If you recall, when faced with a similar situation in the previous year, TENIG came back to the Board with a ‘give-back’ arrangement — employees took a 10% pay cut and waived their contracted raises for this year. In addition to saving the District considerable money, TENIG’s offer ultimately saved their jobs from outsourcing.
I do find it curious that the TEEA president is the one offering the public updates on TENIG and the District’s possible outsourcing rather than the School Board providing this information. Why?
I have heard outsourcing savings to the District estimated at $1 Million – $1.5 Million but I am not sure where these numbers come from — to my knowledge, past outsourcing bids were never released to the public. Without the details of the bids, how does one substantiate the accuracy of possible cost-saving benefits.
If the Board only looks at the bottom line, perhaps there is cost-savings. However, there are other issues to consider. As the President of TEEA, Laura Whittaker so aptly stated last night, “T/E is not about numbers and budgets. It is the people who make this District what it is.” Many of the TENIG members are local residents with a personal connection to the District – many graduated from Conestoga and/or have children in T/E schools. Can outsourcing provide the same level of productivity and quality of job performance as the current employees? I am of the opinion that privatizing these services will not mean “better labor,” but will negatively affect the lives of long-time employees and their families.
I worry that safety of the children may be compromised by outsourcing. Who is responsible for the background checks – will custodial companies that come cheap more likely to compromise safety? Background checks are expensive and a cost factor to private companies – can the District be certain that an outsourced company will actually do background checks on employees. If the District’s custodial services are privatized to save some money, what’s the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is going to apply. Privatizing may mean less reliable employees in the schools, at a greater cost, over whom the District will have no direct control.
As the Board once again looks at outsourcing of TENIG jobs to save the District money, I am reminded how quickly, they approved (7-2) administrator raises last month. If you recall, the administrator bonuses were buried in a consent agenda at the January 28 School Board meeting. No public discussion was permitted until after the consent agenda vote was taken.
What about fairness? I am aware that the District administrators had not received raises in 3 years, but I still find it curious that not one word was mentioned about the District’s economic situation, prior to the approval of the consent agenda in January (giving bonuses to the administrators). Please understand that I am not comparing the work of District administrators to that of TENIG workers, but … I am struggling with the issue of fairness. The highest paid in the District, the administrators, are rewarded with bonuses (without any discussion) yet the lowest paid TENIG employees, who took a 10% pay cut and waived their raises to save the District money, are facing potential layoffs. Again, I ask, where’s the fairness in this picture?
Note: There is a scheduled School Board Budget Workshop I Meeting for Monday, March 4, 7:30 PM. I hope that the Board will be more forthcoming in regards to the outsourcing potential and what cost-savings can be expected. I would also like to hear from TENIG President Dave Fillipo on behalf of the TENIG employees in regards to the possible layoffs.