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"We will not make any rash decisions," said Roanoke County's school board chairman.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Opposition to potential outsourcing in Roanoke County schools turned to discussion about the tough times that could be ahead for the school system as officials brace for another lean budget cycle.
During Thursday’s school board meeting, three people spoke out against outsourcing of school services, something the Roanoke County School Board is considering as a way of cutting costs.
In August the board announced it would once again explore potentially privatizing some services. While no decision has been made, and none is expected to be made until next year, officials are contemplating outsourcing the system’s nutrition, transportation and nursing services.
“I know what outsourcing is because my parents told me about this,” said Thomas Rogers, 9, an Oak Grove Elementary fourth grader. “I want you to keep our cafeteria ladies because they keep us healthy and know us by name.”
Thomas , who was the youngest of the speakers and brought his own step stool to reach the lectern, asked the board to keep his school nurse, bus driver and cafeteria staffers, all of whom he called by name.
“She knew I had s trep even before the doctor did,” Thomas said of his school nurse, explaining she also knows when students are faking.
His mother Frances Rogers also spoke.
“As a mom and former teacher, I am 100 percent against outsourcing,” she said. “When it comes to educating children, the bottom line shouldn’t always be the most important thing.”
Rogers said the current staff provides important care for students and contended outsourcing has a reputation of high employee turnover. Rogers said students need continuity.
She was also critical of an ongoing pilot program that outsources maintenance to Ohio-based GCA Services Group at three county schools. She cited toilets that were clogged for days and other basic maintenance not being completed.
Board Chairman Jerry Canada said after the meeting he would be shocked if there were many problems with the current outsourcing. He said everything he’s heard about the program has been positive.
He and other board members emphasized during the board meeting that officials don’t want to outsource but must look at all avenues. Canada said the system faces another year where it will have to do with less funding.
“I think we owe it to ourselves to explore every option before we look at closing any more schools,” Canada said, adding he wants school closures to be at the bottom of any list of cost cutting measures. “Nothing, nothing is easy and I’ve said this many times in the last few weeks, our options are down to a few. None of them are going to be popular. They are all going to be high profile.”
Canada said after years of cuts in state funding, increasing Virginia Retirement System expenses and deferring spending on other items the current outlook is bleak.
Any decision on outsourcing isn’t likely to be made soon. The request for proposals for transportation services is due back to the system in November and the request for proposals for nutrition services is expected to go out soon. Canada also said there’s a chance none of the outsourcing will come to fruition.
“We will not make any rash decisions,” he said.
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