It appears a final decision on whether to outsource the school system's custodial work to GCA Services Group will be left with the new Board of Education.
While the issue was not on Thursday night's regular monthly meeting agenda, representatives of GCA were given an opportunity to address the school board hoping to answer questions about their services and to ease concerns about their hiring practices.
GCA officials are seeking to contract with the DeKalb County School system to provide custodial services for $400,000 for the first year with annual renewal options for at least up to four additional years, a move that is intended to save the district money. All current custodial staff working for the school system, recommended by the principals would be hired by GCA. All chemicals, equipment, and consumables would also be provided by GCA for maintaining the buildings year round. But as WJLE first reported Monday, at least one school board member, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III has doubts about the cost savings to the school system in the long run by contracting with GCA. "The financial savings is something I have not been able to justify. If it costs us $400,000, it will also cost GCA the same, unless they cut wages or positions. That is simple math," he said.
During Thursday night's meeting, Evins questioned Darren Kreakie, Human Resource Manager for GCA about the costs. " The contract amount is $400,000. That's what our salaries and benefits end up costing us. What I'm having trouble understanding is if it's costing us $400,000 why is it not costing you $400,000?"
"We can save you money while giving your employees the exact same wage rate and similar benefits to what they're getting and vacation benefits.The reason we can do that is because we save money elsewhere," said Kreakie.
"We save our customers anywhere between twelve and twenty five percent depending upon the amount that they spend. We can do it (provide services) a lot less and a lot cheaper because we have national buying power."
"The highest workman's comp in our system is probably our custodians. We take that over from you and that's a hidden benefit you don't see. So when we take over that workman's comp we put them on our program and you don't get to see that. We also have a lot of different efficiencies that we can do with supplies, techniques, and training that will save us money and save us time," he said.
"A lot of times what we save is in the benefits. Where you have to go out and buy a policy for "X" amount of people, we have 30,000 people so we can get a benefit package for a lot less because we have more users in that. That's where a lot of our savings come is in the benefit program," continued Kreakie
On the issue of hiring, there are several reported cases in recent months and years where GCA employees have been found to be alleged sex and drug offenders, as WJLE reported Monday. However, Kreakie insists the company conducts thorough background checks on its new workers. "A lot of people are concerned about background checks. Our policies match with DeKalb County's (School System). After we put our employees through a rigorous screening background check with us and once they pass then they have to go to the State of Tennessee and get fingerprinted through the school district. At that point the school district would receive the results from that fingerprint and then Mr. (Mark) Willoughby would look at the results and make a decision on whether he wants that person within the school district or not and we would adhere to that. We do that in many different locations throughout the state of Tennessee. Our job is to make sure our employees are safely taken care of. Go home safe and come back to work. We make sure we keep a clean school for our students to learn and our educators to teach." He added that GCA maintains about a 90% retention rate among employees.
"What we like to do is take care of our employees. That's our number one asset and it will still be our number one asset if we are given the opportunity to take DeKalb County as well. We're willing to offer all current employees a position as long as they get a recommendation and pass a rigorous background screening check through GCA," he said.
Evins said he wanted to see the contract to learn what custodial services would and would not be provided. "I haven't seen a contract. I had talked to Mr. (Josh) Helton (GCA Senior Regional Manager). He emailed and asked me if there is something I specifically needed. I told him I knew there are clauses in certain contracts that state, in this case, what custodial services will not be done. I never heard back from anyone," said Evins.
"Our contracts come with specs with what we will do and won't do. What they (custodians) are doing now, they will do with us. If there is a late night football game, basketball game that's all included in that price. There is no extra money. That is what they're going to be doing. The principal is still the CEO of that school but instead of the principal having to deal with the employees, he will have a central person, an account manager that he or she can go deal with if there is a problem and they will go fix it so the principals can go back to what they're doing, taking care of the kids and their faculty and staff," said Kreakie.
GCA officials said they would make available copies of their proposal and specs with Evins and all other members of the school board.