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Custodial proposal faces stiff opposition

By Staff | May 13, 2008

Julie Bates, Demoney Elementary preschool teacher, asked the ELC Board of Education Monday night to reconsider contracting with an Omaha firm for custodial services. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

The Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District board room was standing room only Monday when about 50 employees and citizens turned out to protest the district’s consideration of contracting for custodial services.

The clash became personal when district patron, Mary Sicard, said to Superintendent Dick Magnuson, “We’re sick of you. We’re sick of your s—.”

Representatives of FBG, the Omaha, Neb., company that made a proposal to contract for custodial services with the district, found their presentation punctuated a number of times by questions and comments from the audience.

Prior to the FBG presentation during the public input portion of Monday’s board meeting, Demoney preschool teacher Julie Bates spoke emotionally on behalf of Demoney custodian Clint Howard. Following are some of her comments:

“Our daytime custodian at Demoney has been a part of our school system for the past 25 years and has lived in this community for more than that. He knows the parents of our students and their parents and they know him. You will often see him greeting parents at the door as they drop off their children and when they pick them up. He knows who should be in the school and who should not. It gives me peace of mind, as it should you, knowing that he is watching who is coming and going and looking out for our students’ safety, as well as the staffs’.

Dennis Lukins, UFCW Local 79 President, showed the board petitions that had been circulated asking that the district not contract for custodial services. “We can’t always look at the bottom dollar. Sometimes we have to look at what is the moral and the right thing to do,” Lukins said. After the school board meeting, Lukins said a Region 6 UFCW representative from Chicago is coming to Estherville Thursday. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

“…For the past two years he has received the most votes from the students at our annual Family Fun Event and, with great humor, he willingly kissed a horse one year and dressed up like a rabbit and did the bunny hop with the students the next year.

“Our custodian has taken it upon himself to be a part of their education as well. During the month of October, every year, he takes a week of his vacation to teach our students about fire safety.

“My point is that our custodians do not just clean our schools. They take a genuine interest in our students’ well being, as well as their education, and want the best for them, because they know them and their families. They truly do help bridge the gap between school and community. I am asking you to please think about our school’s mission statement and demonstrate good character and respect the dedication and loyalty that our current custodians have shown when you are deciding the fate of their jobs.

Jim Simmonds, FBG vice president and regional manager, Ivan Englett, corporate education services manager; and Mike Livermore, Des Moines branch manager, presented the company’s proposal and answered questions.

Livermore said FBG could save $102,172 from what the district currently pays.

Mary Balch, district patron, questioned Livermore about a FBG ad she saw in the Davenport area advertising for custodians at $8 an hour.

Simmonds said the company would pay higher wages in Estherville than in Davenport, about $9 an hour.

Englett said a major advantage of FBG would be that it would bring in people for training. He said employees would have access to information they didn’t before. “We know what modern equipment is and what’s new on the drawing board,” Englett said.

“We have gentlemen now who are extremely proud of the work they do,” said board vice president Karen Butler.

Company officials discusses such issues as insurance, profit sharing, and that FBG was an employee-owned company.

After a confrontation resulted with those concerned about the proposed custodial contract, the board cut off further public discussion and later decided to hold a public work session on the issue 5:15 p.m. Monday, June 2 in the high-school cafeteria. The public may pick up comment cards at the door before the meeting begins.