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story.lead_photo.caption Megan Slocum, the Fayetteville School District's associate superintendent for support services, is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Dave Perozek

FAYETTEVILLE -- The School District intends to hire more than two dozen custodians for the high school after ending a short-lived experiment with outsourcing the cleaning services.

The School Board approved the move on a 5-1 vote at its meeting Thursday. Tim Hudson was the only member who voted against it.

Help Wanted

Those wishing to apply for a job as a custodian with the Fayetteville School District may visit the district’s website at district.fayar.net and click on “employment” at the top of the page.

Source: Staff Report

The district hired SSC Service for Education in February 2018. It continued to employ its own custodial workers at the district's other schools.

Megan Slocum, associate superintendent for support services, said SSC did the best job it could, but the feedback from school staff was they didn't have the same kind of relationship with the SSC custodians as they had with district-employed custodians.

"We feel like that relational element is such a huge piece of it. We felt like that wasn't necessarily part of the contract" with SSC, Slocum said.

Tim Tyler, a regional representative of SSC, did not return a phone message Friday seeking comment.

Officials considered an arrangement whereby SSC employees and district employees would split the custodial duties, but decided that would be too complicated, Slocum said.

Administrators finally decided the best route would be to cancel the district's contract with SSC and hire 28 people -- including a day supervisor and a night supervisor -- to cover the high school's custodial needs. Supervisors will serve as the primary connection for staff members.

"I need to be able to assure a teacher if something goes wrong, or something's not going well, there's a point of contact for them. They're going to be there, and they're going to follow through," Slocum said.

The district previously employed 20 custodians at the high school, which was insufficient, Slocum said.

Nationally, the average space a custodian handles is 22,000 square feet, said Steve Flickinger, the district's custodial supervisor. He estimated that, with the school's size and 26 custodians on hand, each will be handling about 25,000 square feet.

"It's a big building," he said.

In the district's contract with SSC, either party can terminate the agreement upon 60 days' written notice, according to Chris Lawson, the district's attorney.

The district is going to buy the equipment SSC bought last year to use at the high school. The equipment cost will be $240,000.

The district was paying the company $820,840 per year, plus overtime costs, Slocum said. Administrators estimated the total cost of hiring 28 people to replace SSC's services would be roughly $100,000 more per year than the district paid this past year.

Hudson, lacking a more precise impact on the district's budget, felt uncomfortable with the proposal and voted against it.

Bentonville and Rogers school districts both have used SSC since 2008.

Fayetteville's salary schedule for custodians ranges from $12 per hour to $24.56 per hour, depending on experience. When custodians are hired, they start at no higher than step 10 -- $15 per hour -- of the 30-step schedule. A person at that rate would cost the district about $36,000 per year when benefits are taken into account, administrators said.

Then-Superintendent Matthew Wendt reluctantly recommended last year the board enter into a 15-month contract with SSC, saying the district had "run out of solutions" for keeping a full custodial staff. Wendt noted at the time the district competes for custodial help not only with other school districts, but with the University of Arkansas and corporations in the area.

Slocum acknowledged it will be a challenge to hire all the custodians the district needs, but administrators will do their best.

"Transportation, custodial, food service -- those three areas are challenging areas to fill, constantly," she said.

The board discussed the matter for about 40 minutes before its vote Thursday. The conversation included how best to make custodial work easier by compelling the school's 2,600 students to take better care of the facility.

Megan Hurley, a board member, said teaching soft skills, or interpersonal skills, is a part of the district's five-year strategic plan. Teaching kids to take care of their school facility should fall under that category, she said.

The school will be cracking down on where students are allowed to eat in order to limit messes, Slocum said.

NW News on 07/20/2019

Print Headline: Fayetteville School Board drops custodial contract

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