The West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday, April 30 to privatize the district’s custodial and transportation services.
The school board will enter into three-year agreements with Durham School Services for transportation services, and GCA Services Group for custodial services.
The number of current district employees that will be affected varies, with board Treasurer Dr. Nelson Hersh saying that 110 employees will be affected and Pam Zajac, public relations and marketing coordinator for the district, stating that 94 would be affected.
Current employees may not be retained by the firms, but in fact may be, according to district officials. Their current contracts will be terminated as of June 30.
Hersh said that the specifics of the contracts have not yet been worked out, but that the district stands to save approximately $5.9 million over the course of the three-year contracts.
According to the general terms of the agreements, the contracts with Durham and GCA will be reviewed year-by-year after three years.
The district will also be able to send its initial background check screening results to the companies without lowering district standards. The district’s buses will also continue to be used.
An amendment was also made to allow the school board to have final approval over the contracts instead of the superintendent.
Durham is based out of Warrenville, Ill. and, according to the company’s website, it’s the U.S. student transportation division of National Express Corporation, which is the North American subsidiary of National Express Group, based out of the United Kingdom.
GCA Services is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and, according to its website, it employs over 30,000 people in 45 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
The atmosphere was contentious inside the media center at West Bloomfield High School Monday night, as well as outside the school, where picketers protested the pending privatization vote.
“This is a very sad day for us,” Hersh said. “We appreciate the employees. They are hard-working, dedicated employees and they are valuable members of our team. The state of Michigan has put a weight on our employees that this year we must put 24.46 percent away, mandated by law, for pension and retirement and this is going up next year to 27 percent.”
Hersh added that Durham representatives told him that the vast majority of current bus drivers will be retained, and, because the company isn’t legally bound to make contributions on behalf of employees to the state retirement system, the retained bus drivers may be paid more per hour than presently.
He also said that current employees, both in transportation and custodial services, will have an advantage over others when applying for new positions with the companies.
West Bloomfield transportation union officials and West Bloomfield MEA Director Cyndi Austin could not be reached for comment prior to press time yesterday, Tuesday, May 1.