A Churchill County School District proposal at its last meeting would outsource maintenance, custodial and transportation.
LVN file photo
Community members voiced their concern about Churchill County School District’s proposal about outsourcing three departments during Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
ChurchillCSD moved to proceed with pursuing Request for Proposals (RFP) to evaluate whether it should outsource the maintenance, transportation and custodial departments.
“As part of the look forward related to our budget process and uncertainty in the future financial condition of the district, it is imperative that we review all options for the district during this budget development cycle with the district and impending legislature,” Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens said in her opening remarks. “These are difficult, difficult decisions that no one wants to consider but that must be considered.
“Being able to ensure that the totality of the district’s available funds and possible grant funds to meet the goals of the district is one of my main responsibilities as superintendent.”
EC Best Principal Keith Boone phoned in during the public comments and asked the board to reach out to the principals and that “all people have civic responsibilities to the whole, and that’s our school district.” He concluded there has been a growing appreciation for front-line workers during the pandemic and these three groups fall into that category.
“We’re talking about our front-line workers tonight,” he said.
Others commented on ensuring oversight cost is considered and that the district looks out for the well-being of the students and staff.
“Yes, we have to balance the budget. Yes, we have to look at the numbers. When you look at the numbers, consider they’re not the only impact,” said Jennifer Sanchez, a classified employee and parent. “It’s that one person who says we need to check on this kiddo. Our community as a whole…we cut them out, we’re cutting out our community.”
After meeting with Gaylene Drinkut, president of the Classified Association, Toni Daluge, supervisor, Dustin Drinkut, supervisor of garages, and Kenny Mitchell, the operations manager, Stephens said the district will develop the RFP and include comments and input from focus groups of staff who wish to participate.
“We will ensure we thoroughly collect data of the existing approach in order to determine how to best proceed, following the goals of the new budget policy adopted last school year,” said Stephens, who added that the target for discussion with the board is during the March 24 meeting.
Walter Henderson, a custodian at E.C. Best, said the custodian group across the district has been hard at work during the pandemic and does not feel it’s fair to disrupt the team.
“Every custodian in the district has been working their butts off to keep rooms clean and safe,” he said. “We worked hard all summer. When we had breaks, we helped out the grounds crew. Everybody helps everybody around here. Everybody works together in this district. If you want to pull us apart, it’s not fair. We’re taxpayers. We elected you guys to make sound decisions for the community of Fallon and community of all these classified people. It’s always the classified people who get cut and we’re the lowest paid in the district.”
Mitchell admitted he’s in a tough position because the district needs to save money while taking care of the students and staff.
“I’m pulled in both directions and it keeps me up at night,” said Mitchell, who noted that this topic has come up multiple times. “Every time this has come up, it affects everybody’s lives. We’re all in this together. I don’t want to feel like we’re going against each other. The whole district is a big family and we’re trying to take care of our kids. We need to have solid hard numbers to know if it’s plausible and we can do away with the what ifs because we’ll have the exact formula it takes. I want to protect my people. I want to be part of all of it because I see all of it. I hope we can have the transparency of comparing numbers and apples to apples.”
Several trustees weighed in on the proposal with Carmen Schank being the most vocal as she elicited a round of applause from the community members waiting to speak before the board. Schank, who said there has not been a budget meeting in six months, presented a long list of questions that need answering before a decision can be made, including PERS and benefits, maintaining buildings and supplies.
Trustee Vice President Tricia Strasdin, and Trustees Katherine Whitaker, Greg Malkovich and Fred Buckmaster chimed in, saying there needs to be more information before they can decide. Buckmaster went a step further that it will be difficult to change his mind.
“We need information. I just don’t see a lot of sense in messing with something that’s working,” he said.
Trustee President Matt Hyde echoed Buckmaster’s comments.
“It’s going to be a tough sell. My biggest concern is that it’s not going to be in our hands and how long will it last,” he said. “I have to have information. This is all stuff you’re going to explore. I support the exploration of all of this. We’ll see what it looks like when it comes back.”