In an effort to save money and relieve each school of the in-house burden, the DeKalb County Board of Education is considering contracting with a company to provide custodial services at all schools in the county.
Representatives of GCA Services Group addressed the School Board Thursday night and made a proposal to contract with the system for $400,000 for the first year with annual renewal options for at least up to five years. 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.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said he has contacted several school systems where GCA works and all have given him a good report. "I have not found anybody that had anything negative to say. The quality of work they do that I have heard about and looked at is extremely good," he said.
The school board took no action Thursday night. A special meeting is set for Tuesday, July 15 at 7:00 p.m. to make a final decision.
According to its website, GCA Services Group, Inc. is a leading national provider of quality facility services, including janitorial/custodial services, contamination control for cleanroom manufacturing, facilities operations and maintenance, grounds management, in-sourced production staffing and labor management, diversified staffing, and more.
With over 34,000 employees in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, GCA serves a variety of sectors, including K-12 schools, higher education, manufacturing, corporate office buildings, and others. GCA’s management team is recognized as one of the strongest and most experienced in the industry.
Craig Colquitt, Senior Sales Director said GCA would partner with the school system, improve the cleanliness and look of the schools, train the current staff of custodians, provide them health insurance and benefits, and give them an opportunity for promotions. "We are in 35 school districts in the state (Tennessee) and in 250 school districts across the country. We consider ourselves allies, partners. We know your current concerns are for your principals, teachers, and your employees. They are for us too," Colquitt said.
"One thing we do when we come into a district is that we talk to the principals first and foremost. Any of these employees who are doing a good job, we want on our team," said Josh Helton, Senior Regional Manager. "We need your employees. We want to train them. We know how important it is to hire locally and to give these people a chance to move forward," he said.
"We provide upward mobility and promotions. We're in a lot of districts so if there are people here who are capable of doing more, we want to give them that opportunity if they want it to move up into a managerial position and even further," said Adam Miles, Sales Director.
Employees who do a good job on a daily basis would also be rewarded through a regular recognition program. "We have an employee of the month and a building of the month at every location and every school system. We usually present a gift card or offer some form of recognition and a plaque. We also do a building of the month to recognize the entire crew at that school. That usually involves a dinner, lunch or whatever they (employees) like to do. Maybe a sporting event," said Helton.
In addition to the daily chores, GCA would be responsible for cleanup for after school activities. "All school related activities, ball games, PTO events, and board meetings, we'll be there to clean up before and after and take care of things," said Miles.
"In addition to the cleaning inside of the buildings, we will patrol the perimeter within twenty five feet of the school and clean up trash and debris", Miles said.
Although not part of the contracted clean up responsibilities, GCA provides beautification projects as a value added service. " Maybe the outside grounds need a little work too. We're not just about inside strip and wax. We can come in and plant, mulch and do things like that to beautify those areas," said Helton.
While principals would no longer be directly over the custodians, they would still have input with GCA. "If principals are concerned that they will lose control of their building if they are not calling the shots, that's the furthest thing from the truth. They are what makes this thing work. Every day, we'll check in with them, especially the first quarter or so and make sure they have what they need and are happy. We would have a designated account manager, a direct contact for all principals and the day porters and night crews at each school will have a supervisor over them," said Miles. GCA would further maintain an on-call list of employees who could be summoned to work in the event of an absence by a regular custodian due to illness or other reason.
Sixth District Board member Doug Stephens asked how GCA could save the school system money. "What you presented is very impressive but how can we either be so bad or you so good that you can save us $50,000 a year," he asked?
"Purchasing power. All equipment, training and consumables are provided by us and we're getting our equipment and consumables at a much lower rate than you can. All those costs to you, we'll absorb including insurance, benefits, and workman's comp," said Helton. We keep our workman's comp costs down with proper training, equipment, education, and supplies they (custodians) need. If we are stripping and waxing a floor, they're (employees) are going to be in glasses and stripper shoes. We want them to go home the same way they arrived. Anything less than that on our part is unacceptable," added Miles.
Part of the savings on equipment is coming from the fact that we're buying the equipment full price but we're negotiating that. We're getting a better price than you do. You'll buy it at full cash price. We'll depreciate that over five years. If we don't maintain the contract for five years we're out. So it behooves us to keep it for five years because we've bought new equipment and depreciated it over that period of time. That's part of the savings. With 36,000 employees, we can negotiate on any kind of supply with our buying power," said Colquitt.
We can offer you a significant savings from what you're spending in house while inheriting all of your recommended employees. We have the leadership that is ready to go. We've got the turn key service, if you want us in here we can take care of you from start to finish, from unlocking the building to locking the building and everything in between. We're here. If you need us, you call us, even if it's an emergency in the middle of the night. We want to be a partner. We want to take care of the buildings. We want to be proud of it and we want the students and the staff to show up and say this building looks great. It's simple and easy, which is what the principals like the most," said Miles.
With the consumables, such as trash bags and toilet paper provided by GCA, schools would no longer have to bear that expense, which usually runs from two to four thousand dollars a year, and paid for through fundraisers.
First District member John David Foutch asked about GCA's health insurance plan for employees. "I am interested in the employees insurance compared to what ours are paying now. Whether it's comparable. If it's way out of line, it's not being fair to the people who have been loyal to us. I think they have done a good job. A lot of them work for insurance," said Foutch.
"All the insurance they currently have, we offer," said Miles. "Insurance costs will vary based upon packages offered but we have multiple packages including major medical and dental and they (employees) can retrofit it however they see fit. We work with United Healthcare and Humana. United offers a Bronze, Silver, and Gold plan," he said.
Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore asked GCA to provide some numbers in terms of costs for individual , spouse and family health insurance plans during the special meeting Tuesday night.
GCA pledges to be actively involved in the community."We do a lot of things in the community we're really proud of. As far as sponsorships go, as far as sports, we know how hard it is to get funding for coaches. We'd love to chip in on that and sponsor events. Anything local in the community we can put our name on and help you guys with that, we'd like to do that as well," Helton said.
Craig Colquitt of GCA Services Group, Inc. is a retired American football punter who spent eight seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1978–1981, 1983–1984) and Indianapolis Colts (1987). He was a member of two Super Bowl Champions with the Steelers in 1978 and 1979. He is the father of two current NFL punters, Dustin and Britton Colquitt. His brother, Jimmy Colquitt, was a punter for the Seattle Seahawks in 1985. All four played college football at the University of Tennessee. Craig was inducted into the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame July 16, 2009