Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 01-09-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | JANUARY 9-15, 2020 SCITUATE 5 SCITUATE – School custodians will receive an answer from the School Committee in two weeks regarding whether the district will explore priva- tizing the cleaning and maintenance of school facilities, said Chairwoman Erika McCormick during Tuesday's meeting. McCormick responded to Scituate Custodians Union President Joshua Homerston's comments that Scituate's 20 custodian union workers need to know if they should begin looking for new jobs. "We're not going to come back and work for a privatized company," Homerston said. He said privatization in other dis- tricts has not worked out, and many employees are not retained after some time passes with the new com- pany. If Scituate decides to privatize, Homerston said custodians will leave. Again, Homerston said, the com- mittee needs to drop the concept of privatization, and begin contract nego- tiations. "We like working for the school. We like working for the town," Homerston said. About 70 people attended Tuesday's school board meeting, many holding red signs that read, "Our custodians are Scituate, no to privatization" to support the Scituate custodians whose contract may be in jeopardy. The majority of those in attendance were custodians and supporters who Decision soon on exploration of private custodial services By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer also held a pre-meeting rally outside Scituate High School. Several custodians and support- ers made statements at the meeting, recalling stories of how custodians helped students feel welcome, safe, and that they were in a clean environ- ment. In a phone interview on Monday before the meeting, McCormick expressed concern that the custodi- ans do not feel valued, but she said the Town Council needs to do its due diligence to explore alternative options to fill a budget gap caused by a decrease in state aid. Again, McCormick said, privatiza- tion does not necessarily mean there will be changes to the existing staff. She read the same statement previ- ously made at a Dec. 10 meeting. "We sincerely hear and share your concerns," McCormick told custodi- ans. After hearing from Homerston, McCormick said officials will take two weeks to come up with a decision on whether the town will investigate privatization or not. On Nov. 1, the School Committee's solicitor David D'Agostino Jr. noti- fied the Scituate Custodians Union of the committee's intention to put off contract negotiation until April so it could explore possible privatization of custodial services. The School Committee did not decide on the issue Tuesday night, and McCormick said the committee is still in the process of drafting a request for proposals for the cleaning and maintenance of school facilities. McCormick said there are priva- tization contracts that would keep existing staff at the same rates of pay and benefits. Before the regular meeting was called to order, the School Committee again met in executive session to discuss negotiation strate- gies for the collective bargaining agreement with school custodians. National Education Association Rhode Island President Larry Purtill said privatizing custodial staff will be a mistake if the district believes it will save money. "These companies are in the busi- ness to make money. I'd like to see the math," Purtill said. Later in the evening, Supt. Carol Blanchette said she will be open- ing her office to the public several times before the end of the school year for community members to visit. Blanchette said she encourages anyone interested in sharing ideas, thoughts, concerns and solutions related to Scituate Public Schools to come by. Some open office hours will be held Friday, Jan. 31, from 10 to 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 28, from 10 to 11 a.m., and Friday, April 3 from 1 to 2 p.m. BREEZE PHOTO BY ROBERT EMERSON MICHAEL BEHM, a custodian at Scituate High School for the past seven months, participates in the rally Tuesday opposing a School Committee proposal to privatize custodial services. 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