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May 22 School Board meeting postpones decision for privatization of custodial staff and hall monitors

Members of the community continue to discuss the decision proposed by the school board

May 29, 2017

An action item concerning the privatization of custodial staff and hall monitors was brought up to be decided on at the May 22 school board meeting earlier this week, but early in the meeting the school board decided to postpone the decision on the item for a later meeting. However, public commentary later in the meeting led to discussion on the topic.

The first of several commentators was Grosse Pointe resident Erica Fondell, who voiced her concerns to the board concerning visibility of board practices, specifically her concerns issues of privatization and teacher pay cuts.

“I would like to request that all of you are 100 percent transparent with all of us in regards to your position on privatization, and teacher pay cuts,” Fondell said at the meeting.  “I feel that there is not 100 percent transparency from the entire board, and I feel that’s something we as residents and our teachers and staff members deserve.”

I feel that there is not 100 percent transparency from the entire board, and I feel that’s something we as residents and our teachers and staff members deserve.”

— Erica Fondell, Grosse Pointe Resident

School Board President Brian Summerfield replied to this comment in turn.

“We’ve had several conversations about privatization, all have been done at public meetings,” Summerfield said at the meeting.  “When we come to vote on a contract, all board members would be free to state their position on that contract, including whether or not a pay cut would be appropriate.”

Lisa Klik, a hall monitor at Brownell Middle School, also voiced her concerns at the meeting concerning privatization, and pointed out how former instances of privatization have been troublesome for the district in the past.

“I just want you guys to know that in the past, with the privatization that has been done, it’s gone really bad,” Klik said at the meeting.  “And I only know because I’ve seen this first hand.  We had the privatization of the substitute teachers-the teachers that we get now, I’ve seen them using their iPads and iPods watching basketball while the class is doing whatever they want to do.”

Klik went on to explain how in addition to the privatization of substitute teachers has gone poorly, the food service system has, as well.

“I’ve seen it with Sodexo, when they came in,” Klik said.  “When I was at Richard, and they had Hungry Howie’s pizza days, they would take the old pizza, that wasn’t sold, put it in the freezer, and the following friday, bring it back out, put it in the microwave, and then serve it to the kids.”

Hall Monitor Andrea Williams also made a statement on the privatization of hall monitors, in the form of a text received from a South alumn.  

“‘Wow, that’s just sad,’” Williams quoted at the meeting.  “‘The hall monitors are what keep the student body going at that school.  The student/hall monitor relationship is very strong at that school.  When I was having a bad day, I could always go to you or Mrs. K.  Hopefully you guys will be able to stay.  I’m sure the voices of the Grosse Pointe taxpayers will be heard, and you guys will have a great chance of staying.’”

After public commentary, members of the school board voiced their concerns on the issue-one of which was Trustee Christopher Profeta.

“I know that when we get to the end that that budget’s going to have stuff in it that I think is really great, and some stuff in it that I think is not so great and I’m going to have to look at it and decide overall do I think it’s right for our kids and our community,” Profeta said at the meeting.

Trustee Kathleen Abke also spoke, reminding the public that the deficit spending has called for some tough decisions from the board.

“We have a structural deficit in the district of $2.4 million, which is not a one time thing, this means every year we’re spending $2.4 million more than we’re taking in,” Abke said at the meeting.  “To solve that is extremely difficult and extremely painful.  None of the options that we’ve discussed to make up that $2.4 million difference have been anything any of us have wanted to do.”

To solve that [the deficit] is extremely difficult and extremely painful. None of the options that we’ve discussed to make up that $2.4 million difference have been anything any of us have wanted to do.”

— Trustee Kathleen Abke

Secretary Cynthia Pangborn made her stance on the matter relatively clear, when she came and spoke out against privatization and spending on administration.

“I’m looking at it, and I’m seeing ‘same old, same old,’” Pangborn said at the meeting.  “We have more administrators in the central administration building now than we had when we had 1000 more students.  We haven’t even discussed that.”

Pangborn additionally emphasized that this discussion of the privatization of custodial staff is nothing new.

“Anyone that’s looked at anything I’ve done since I’ve been running for school board, including in 1989 when I went to the mic to stop privatization of the custodial staff,” Pangborn said.  “Four times I’ve run and four times I’ve been against this particular privatization.”

Budget discussion will continue into June until the budget is finalized for the next school year, at a date that is yet to be determined.  The May 22 meeting is available to watch online on the district’s website.  The next regular meeting will be on June 12.

 

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