Saugatuck Public Schools' Officials Face Tough Questions From Teachers & Parents Over Union Contract Negotiations, District Transparency And Cleanliness Of School Buildings
More than 20 Saugatuck Public School (SPS) teachers concerned about their jobs, contract negotiations and alleged poor janitorial services and cleanliness in the schools brought their concerns to the SPS Board of Education meeting on Monday.
The concerned teachers said they were there to find out what their future holds as the teacher union and the district have yet to hash out a negotiated teachers’ contract this year.
Concerns about the lack of transparency on the part of school officials were brought up immediately following the SPS Board of Education’s hour-long closed session at which the board discussed the unresolved teacher contract.
Exiting the executive session, board members chose to say nothing about their discussions or the teacher contract issues.
There were several concerns expressed by those present related to the budget and about alleged poor janitorial service the school is getting by its new provider Aramark.
Aramark was hired by Elizabeth Broderick, the former school finance officer who recently retired amid controversy following news reports and public concerns over her actions.
“We have concerns about transparency,” Saugatuck High School math teacher Dorie Galloway told the board, asking for clarity regarding the student body count and the budget.
In response, SPS Superintendent Rolfe Timmerman said, “We will be making a budget amendment that takes into consideration the new student count.”
Timmerman told The Local Observer Wednesday the “conservative estimate” of 845 students was figured before the fall school term, but jumped to 875 students on the “official” count day last Wednesday.
The district has an $8.9 million budget. Part of its funding as a public school comes from the State of Michigan, which provides SPS about $8,200 per resident students and about $7,700 per each school of choice student (Schools of Choice students account for about 1/3 of enrollment in the local district.)
The difference in that student enrollment number - 845 to 875 - accounts for some $200,000 or more in state funding.
In either case, Timmerman said there is absolutely “no friction” between the teacher union and the district.
“We are working collaboratively. The union has always been fantastic to work with,” he said.
Furthermore, he said that despite being unusual, he considers it a “positive” factor “the union was willing to wait for us (after the school year was already under way) to first conduct the audit report and take incoming student enrollment. Typically, the teacher contract is ratified before that.”
In another highlight from Monday’s meeting, other than saying they would talk to her later about her concerns, the SPS board said nothing about SPS student parent and Athletic Booster volunteer Kathy Hartman’s concerns.
“Regarding the cleaning contract that now is costing the district more than previously…why are the schools so filthy? Who is responsible to make sure the new cleaning crew actually cleans? Were the schools deep cleaned this summer? We were told the new contract, while more expensive, was a cost savings (for the district). What and where are those savings?” asked Hartman, speaking to the board.
Asked about those issues, Timmerman said, “I will set up a time to meet with her and to talk to her (Hartman).”
However, he said he did not want to discuss the matter any further.
Asked if the new janitorial service company Aramark was any cheaper or more expensive than the previous cleaning service provider - All In One Cleaning - Timmerman said, “I don’t have that information on my desk.”
Records obtained by The Local Observer raises serious questions as to why exactly the school district abruptly terminated its contract with All In One Cleaning of Fennville after more than a decade of service.
Broderick dropped All In One even though the company routinely received high praise from staff, several administrators, and teachers for its quality of work.
School records obtained by The Local Observer show the school district’s hiring of Aramark actually significantly increased janitorial costs for the district by approximately $56,977 to date.