Sue Diede

Outsourcing ‘Chopping Block’: A real possibility for custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff, security personnel, aids and paraeducators in T/E

In my last blog post, I indicated there would be a follow-up post on TENIG and discussion of outsourcing.  TENIG President Dave Fillippo delivered an emotional statement at Monday night’s TESD Budget Workshop on the eve of his TESD retirement this Friday.  His statement, in its entirety, follows this post.

Much troubles me about the idea of outsourcing of the non-instructional employees of the District, especially at this time.  Excluding the District’s administrators and teachers,  TENIG members are the secretaries, custodians, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and security personnel.  Although aides and paraeducators are not members of TENIG, their jobs are also on the outsourcing ‘chopping block’ as budget impact items under consideration.

The Budget Workshop presentation only included two budget impact items for the Board to consider – (1) the outsourcing of TENIG staff and (2) the outsourcing of aides and paraeducators.  The Board has given the required 120-day written notice of their intention to issue an RFP to seek outsourcing bids for TENIG and the aides and paraeducators.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, we know that the Board has increased the District budget for safety.  They approved $250K for ‘district security enhancements’ and hired former Tredyffrin Township police chief Andy Chambers as a security expert, in an effort to make the school buildings more secure and to protect the students and staff.  From a security standpoint, how then can it possibly make sense to dismiss long-serving members of the T/E school district community in lieu of strangers that do not know our schools or our children?

Those employees whose jobs are under consideration for outsourcing,  are highly trained, dedicated and caring professionals with roots in our community; the majority  live in the T/E School District.  These are the people who the community knows and trusts.  How could it make sense to replace them with high turnover, sub-standard inexperienced workers?  There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of workers (and probably the productivity) will diminish with the largest percentage of new workers coming from outside the District.   Should outsourcing occur, the District will not only lose local, dedicated employees, but we also lose the community pride and spirit that comes with people working in the schools that ‘they’ attended, and that their children attended.

In these tight budget times, the custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and aides all become a target for outsourcing.  By privatizing the jobs, the District hands over important public service jobs to huge, private corporations who pay their employees lower wages. When private companies take over, they do away with as many full-time positions as they can and hire part-time workers at the lowest wages possible, so that do not have to offer basic health care benefits.

Outsourcing is not non-profit.  Outsourcing companies only exist for one reason – to make money.  The profit margin is key to the success of outsourcing companies and they will always act in their own self-interest.  As a result, our students, their parents and our community will come ‘second’ to the financial driver of outsourcing companies … profit.  Saving the District money may be the endgame of outsourcing, but with that decision should be the acceptance that our children are nothing more than a “commodity for profit” to an outsourcing company.

The budget of Tredyffrin Easttown School District should not be balanced on the backs of the lowest paid public service employees.  It is remarkable to me that the Board could bury administrator raises in a consent agenda and then just a few weeks later notify TENIG members of the impending outsourcing RFP.  As I said in an earlier post, “Where’s the fairness?”

Beyond this discussion of outsourcing, something else occurred on Monday night that troubled me.  At the end of the meeting, there was opportunity for resident comment.  It was at this point that Dave Fillippo delivered his emotional statement (see below).  As President of TENIG, Dave was speaking out on behalf of the union against outsourcing of the members’ jobs.  However, his statement was also his “swansong’, his good-bye to the Board and to the staff.    Having served the District for 32 years, Dave retires this Friday – as a result, his words delivered with emotion and pride for a community and a career that he loves.  Upon finishing his statement, I found it incredulous that Board President Kevin Buraks offered no words of appreciation or thank you for a “job well done’ to Mr. Fillippo.  Sure, for those 32 years, Dave was ‘doing his job’ for the District, but does that make him any less deserving of gratitude for doing it.  Acknowledging years of service is important, not only to the one retiring but also to show that the Board and administration cares about its staff.

I know I am on my soapbox on this one, but saying thank you to people and letting them know that they are appreciated is important.  If we do not acknowledge our thanks, I think we lose a human moment, a human connection. So, in what I hope was an oversight on Mr. Buraks and the School Board’s part, I want to wish Dave Fillippo all the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.  And to thank Dave for his 32 years of dedicated service to the Tredyffrin Easttown School District and for the contributions he made to the community.  Thank You!

Dave Fillippo’s statement read at the TESD Budget Workshop, March 4, 2013

Community and friends, Dr. Waters, Sue Tiede, members of the Board, principals, teachers and colleagues that have made my career here at TE so special.  My association with this school district started at kindergarten at Paoli Elementary School through graduation at Conestoga, and eventually employment in the maintenance department in 1980.  I have never lived a day of my 60-plus years outside of residence in Tredyffrin Township.  TE is my home and always will be.

I have loved working here in the community, no regrets, even though I was mocked at times, by friends and contractors who made millions while I, in comparison worked for a meager hourly wage. Today, I have a deep concern that in the future, others like myself, that are gifted with a servants heart will not be able to earn a sustainable wage here, in our community.

For the last two years, I have listened to the “Success and Sustainability” speeches here from the Board.  A campaign destined in part on devaluing the employees of TENIG.  Knowing that indeed the members of TENIG in fact are much of the reason for this District’s success and sustainability.

TENIG harbors a wonderful culture that provides security and safety to our children, maintenance of our schools and communities infrastructure, far beyond that of any contract service.  TENIG offers the District workers who are members of the community, who have a stake in the community.  ‘True Community’ one may say.

My vision of TENIG is one of servant leadership, employees who have a stake in the growth of our community, who are approachable, willing to make sacrifices as we have done, time and time again.  Question is why then would you [the Board] want to turn the services overs to profiteers?  Knowing that TENIG has always been responsible and yielding to the financial circumstances of the times.  Are we to be the scapegoats to remedy the mistakes of previous Board decisions?  TENIG is not at fault here.  We have been here doing our job and wish to continue to do so.

Our custodians have conceded more than anyone, with the wavering of wage increases for 2 years, and taking a 10 percent wage cut. Secretaries work an unpaid lunch while sitting at their desks, often coming in early, clocking in at their scheduled tie, clocking out at quitting time, only to return back to work to finish their day; unpaid for the extra hours.  Yielding to the workload that has evolved with the condensing of assigned duties.  Yet, I seldom hear them complain, they are here for the kids, our teachers and community.

Our food service cooks, preparers, servers and cashiers provide quality lunches to our students and staff at affordable prices and in fact pay for their own operation and show a profit.  Maintenance has answered every emergency in a timely fashion, once again to provide safety to our students and residents, even with the disruption of moving from our original facility, then to ESC, to scattered closets and storage spaces, and now to the old transportation garage.  We did not allow the constant changes to break our commitment and spirit of service.

TENIG is here to serve its community; we offer outstanding in-house service, with responsibility to the children, parents, and taxpayers of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships.  You will not find this dedication in a for-profit contract service.

In retirement, as of this coming Friday, I will not be going anywhere.  I intend to be a vital part of the negotiations with the Board and community along with new TENIG President Mary Minicozzi, Vice President John Brooks, Treasurer Gwen Durante and Secretary Jen Doyle.  TENIG has an excellent leadership staff here that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of our District and is eager to share our ideas with those members of the School Board assigned to the negotiations.

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