In the face of concerns from custodial staff, Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton has dropped a proposal for a pilot program to outsource some janitorial ser vices at the district's Central Office.
"Although we did not intend to worry people, I saw the potential for this to become an ongoing distraction in our school community," Shelton said in an email to principals last week that he shared Monday with the Herald-Leader.
Custodians were worried that other jobs would be outsourced as well. They had been expected to express their concerns at Monday night's school board meeting, when board members were going to be asked to approve the recommendation.
Frankie Langdon, incoming president of the Fayette County Education Support Professionals Association, said she and officials with the Kentucky Education Association met with Shelton on Thursday, and he said afterward the proposal would be dropped.
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"I think everybody voiced their opinions as to why this was important, and he came away in agreement that we would put our Fayette County employees first," Langdon.
Her group is a voluntary employee organization that represents custodians and other school support staff.
At the school board meeting she thanked Shelton and KEA officials for working out the matter.
In the email, Shelton said: "I cannot allow a pilot program to be a hindrance to our progress as a school district. Anything that keeps our employees from being able to focus on taking care of kids is not worth exploring. So we will not be pursuing this avenue any further."
Last year, the district had six custodians at Central Office. Under the proposal, the district would have had three full-time custodians and a contracted nighttime cleaning crew. Three untenured custodians at the district offices lost their jobs at the end of 2013-14 school year.
Langdon said those positions now would be filled by district employees instead of an outside contractor. Outsourcing would have cost about $1,000 less than what was spent last year on custodial work.
Shelton said in the email that he thought the outsourcing proposal presented an efficient and cost-effective alternative to the long-standing model of a six-person custodial crew at the district office.
He said having three openings on that team provided an opportunity to explore other models.
"However," Shelton said in the email, "I know that committed and hard-working employees are the strength of our school district. Custodians do more than keep a building clean, and we value the contributions they make each and every day to our schools, students and staff. I am very sensitive to the honest concerns and fears caused by our consideration of this alternative."
At Monday night's meeting, school board chairman John Price presided for the first time in several months. He had been monitoring board business from home while recovering from a bone marrow transplant and blood disorder.