Basehor-Linwood schools likely ending use of custodial contractor
Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original posting. Assistant high school softball coach Mary Nutter was hired by a 4-3 vote, not 7-0.
The Basehor-Linwood school district is likely to end the use of a custodial contractor in two of its buildings after school board members said Monday they’d prefer for the district to hire its own custodians instead.
Superintendent David Howard said Monday he would work on a plan to end the district’s contract with PCI Cleaning Services to provide janitorial work at Basehor-Linwood Middle School and Basehor Intermediate School, the district’s two newest buildings.
When the two buildings opened in 2010, the district opted to contract with PCI rather than hiring its own custodians to staff them, in an attempt to keep costs down. Since then, though, administrators have discussed problems with the service at several board meetings, including a high rate of turnover and a less proactive staff than seen in the district’s other buildings.
Richard Drennon, the district’s buildings and grounds director, said Monday that training of new PCI employees was required almost constantly because of a high rate of turnover. The contractor’s employees have not seemed to take as good of care of the buildings in which they work as the district’s own custodians, he said, perhaps because the company does not use a head custodian in each building as the district does.
“The ones I have right now just take a lot of pride in the buildings,” Drennon said of his head custodians.
Howard said it was tough to judge whether the use of the contractor was saving the district money. The district paid PCI about $230,000 per year for seven custodians, he said, compared with a cost of about $195,000 for the district to hire seven of its own. But to use its own custodians, the district would also have to pay for additional unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation, as well as cleaning equipment and supplies.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Howard said.
Board member Richard Zamora said he thought it was time for the district to move on from its experiment with using a contractor.“If it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that we tried it, we weren’t happy with it,” Zamora said.
BLMS Principal Mike Wiley said he was happy with the staff members PCI had placed in his building, but he had to spend a good deal of time helping to train them, partly because of high turnover among night-shift workers.
Member Jeané Redmond said she was concerned about administrators spending too much time dealing with the custodians.
“We need our principals concentrating on education, not training custodians,” Redmond said.
After board members agreed they’d like to move to in-house workers, Howard said he would determine how to end the district’s contract with PCI. The board will likely vote on whether to terminate the contract in April or May, he said after the meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• Howard said the district was considering the use of fingerprint scanners in its lunch lines, starting in the fall. The Tonganoxie and Bonner Springs districts use the scanners to allow students to quickly charge their lunches using electronic accounts.
If it goes forward with the scanners, the district would likely begin by using them in some of its elementary buildings on a trial basis, and then adopt them at other buildings afterward.Howard noted that a scanning system would not store complete images of students’ fingerprints.
The district currently uses PIN keypads for lunch purchases at its middle and high schools, and elementary students simply provide their names for employees to input in the electronic system later.
• The board approved, 7-0, a contract with Brown Midwest for the construction of an additional softball field at Basehor-Linwood High School, along with a concession stand and restroom, at a cost of about $295,000.
• The board approved, 7-0, resolutions allowing for the refinancing of debt and for the district’s cooperation with the city of Basehor in applying for a state Safe Routes to School grant to construct sidewalks near the district’s schools.
• After a 20-minute executive session for the purposes of discussing nonelected personnel, the board approved, 7-0, the hiring of Emily McDowell as half-time BLHS softball coach and of Chris Claflin as an industrial arts teacher at BLHS, as well as the resignation of food-service worker Angela Ashburn. The board also approved the hiring of Mary Nutter a half-time assistant BLHS softball coach, but it was by a 4-3 vote. Zamora, Eric Dove and Gary Johnson voted against her hiring.