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Posted on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

Ann Arbor school administrators to recommend privatizing custodial services

By David Jesse

Ann Arbor school district administrators will recommend privatizing custodial and maintenance positions at the school board meeting Wednesday night, a move officials say could save $2.1 million.

But that recommendation comes with a caveat, Superintendent Todd Roberts wrote in a memo to school board members.


From left: Adolfo Valencia, Richard Rudy and Mike Layher hold protest signs outside the Ann Arbor Public Library protesting privatization last month.

File photo

“This recommendation is a first briefing and would only be for approval on April 28th if we are unable to reach a negotiated settlement with AFSCME (the custodial union) prior to April 28th,” he wrote.

The recommendation, contained in the board’s agenda packet for the meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, calls for custodial services to be outsourced to GCA Service Group of Downer’s Grove, Ill. The maintenance company would be

The bid from GCA calls for payments totaling $5,264,414. In a memo to the school board, Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations, and Randy Trent, the district’s executive director of physical properties, said that’s a savings of $1,816,329 over the district’s current custodial costs.

“GCA has extensive K-12 experience across the country with 1,400+ school buildings,” the pair wrote. “GCA has three positive references from Southfield, Birmingham and Novi in Michigan. They have great depth in their operational and technological experience to improve efficiency.

“GCA has proposed 240, eight-hour days each year, for each custodian, with an insurance plan for the full family a composite cost of about $1,000 per worker and wage rate of $12.12/hour for all 90 of our tier one workers, a $19/hour wage rate for one repair person and maintaining the current pay rates for our lowest 49 tier two workers (15@$10.97 per hour, 17 at $10.45/hour and 17 at $9.85/hour).”

GLES, which is being recommended for the maintenance contract, would generate about $250,000 in savings for the district.

“Great Lakes and the local labor union have proposed 1,800 hours each year, for each maintenance worker, with an insurance plan for the full family at composite cost of about $1,000 per worker at a wage rate of $17/hour for all 25 employees”

“They have great depth in the Washtenaw County area and with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. They have been very cost effective in the areas of environmental, construction and parking services for the Ann Arbor Public Schools for the past 20 years.”

In total, the cost for those services would be $1.2 million.

“The proposed custodial and maintenance services would save the district $2,100,000 and reduce our supervisory and office staff cost by $300,000 the first year and about $150,000 each of the next two years.”

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

Privatizing has work in several school systems and it can work for AAPS. It just takes the continued support of parents and teachers to assure that substandard service will not be accepted. I have been working in the cleaning sector for years and it can work...I understand the concerns and fear the custodians at AAPS have in making adjustments or the possibility of loosing their jobs, but join the club!So many of us have lost employment in this bad ecomony! For years there have been rumors of AAPS custodians excessive use of overtime, too many call-ins, filthy schools and now the story of the Blg & Grounds manager making as much as the CFO of AAPS ($100,000)on overtime!!! Sorry I can not feel too sad for this privatizing, but I think some of you brought this on.... P.S If little jimmy or jane is talking to a custodian regarding his problems because they have no one to talk to, then maybe this is why no event set-ups have been performed and the teachers have to do them because the custodian can not be found?

Joyce Basham

Sun, Apr 18, 2010 : 9 a.m.

It has been proven that when privatizing the bid comes in low and then once they have the district where they want them the price doubles because the company wasn't making the profit they expected. So the district saves nothing. They usually end up paying more. Who's going to remove the snow. Janitors don't. They only clean. Do you really think that once this happens the people who stay will be as dedicated to the schools? The schools don't care about the little guy. Society doesn't care about those who make small wages. If the schools want to save money why do they waste so much. Ask any custodian about the things they are told to put in the dumpsters. When a student loses something the custodian will turn it in. Will the people from this new company do the same? Will they let a student in a class room after school because they forgot their homework. I wouldn't because I wouldn't know the student and wouldn't want to take a chance that the student might take something they shouldn't have then I would be in trouble. I saw a post earlier that managent can't fire union worker's. That's not true. If a custodian isn't doing their job why isn't management doing something about it. There is alot of favoritism between management and some custodians. So that's on management. There are 6 principals in the high schools. The athletic director is considered a principal to. College's have one athletic director and the schools have one at each high school at a salary of over $100,000. I could go on but I am so disgusted I just can't see that getting rid of the lowest paid will help in the long run when the cost of privatizing doubles so the company can meet it's profit margin. They also need to stop creating jobs for adminitrator's who didn't work out in a school so they make up a job for that person at Balas.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 6:13 p.m.

Thank you to all of you who support your custodians.Yes, I said custodians.We are not janitors or we wouldn't be doing all of the extras that many of you take for granted. Many of you think that we are raking in the money and benefits but that is not the case. Many of you think that we hide behind a union and that we cannot be fired. That too is not the case.Mangement has in the contract and always has had the ability to fire anyone who is not doing their job or who is a threat to the environment of the schools. And for other offences as outlined by management in the contracts. Who knows the buildings better than the custodians working in them? Who knows when something is not right and needs to be fixed and either can fix it or knows who to call to get it fixed? Many of you think it shouldn't matter if we get privatized because it will be the same employees doing the jobs.That too is not the case.Many will leave because we can't afford to make that kind of cuts.We will have to retire with what little we will get from our pension and find employment elsewhere.Some of us may have to work at a fast food or retail stores or something for less money but will save on gas expenses and wear and tear on our bodies.Yes I did say that, this job is not just about cleaning rooms and hallways. we do a lot of heavy lifting also.I am very depressed that I have dedicated 22 years to the AAPS and am now being told we are not worth keeping. Many students have come to me and tell me they would not like my job because I work too hard. They ask why I work so hard and I tell them that it is my job and that I care about them and the schools that they attend.Children often ask me to help them with their coats or mittens etc. I gladly do it. I have grandchildren and I would hope someone would help them if they needed it.Many children get excited when they see me and have to tell me of the things they did the night before or where they went over break. many come up and give me a hug. Is it because I don't matter to them?Well I hope the district does not privatize my job.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

In my years in A2 Public Schools as a Custodian my/our goal has been to have a clean/safe place for our/your kids to come to school. The students educations has always been the most important thing to all of us. Often times the students feel more comfortable talking to the Custodian about a problem they may be going through or a situation they may know about, they often feel it is easier because we have seen them through their time in Elementary, Middle/High School. In my years I must say it has been a fear of being outsourced but it has always been very clear the savings was simply not there, and AFSCME has not had a raise in several years, we continue to give up because the students do matter to each one of us! By giving up all these years we have new hired staff that start out at 9.65, plus they pay at this time 560. toward their insurance. With the reality of possibly taking a pay cut, paying more toward insurance- we are looking at poverty. We work for our insurance basically. A2 Public Schools need to look at the wasted money being spent on items that may never be used and just tossed out after a few years because it is taking up space. Why should the lowest paid groups (bus drivers, custodial, grounds and maintenance be the ones to make most of the sacrifice? If you only knew all that must be given up in order to save 170+ folks and take 2 million out of this small number of workers, you would be appalled. With all of that said- lets look at how we could save some money. Stop printing directories every year for every staff member. Stop tossing out books that some have never been used. You would not believe all the materials that are tossed out every year.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 12:27 p.m.

No, no and no to privatizing any of the AAPS employees. Our custodians are a very important part of our school community. Aside from keeping our schools in tip-top shape, they have a marvelous working relationship with the rest of the staff in the schools and more importantly with the children and parents. We need to KEEP them with us. And, I very much oppose sending my Michigan Tax Dollars to an out-of-state company. We MUST keep our Michigan Tax Dollars within our great state. Please say "NO TO ANY PRIVATIZATION OF ANY UNIT WITHIN AAPS."


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.

Now it is only a matter of time before they go after bus drivers and monitors. You know Todd is not playing with a full deck when he does not present this last month and does today? I thought so. They started with Chartwells and now this. Sad day indeed.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

NO, NO, and NO to privatizing the custodians. They play a very major role in the school setting aside from keeping the schools in tip-top shape, they have a marvelous relationship with, most importantly of all, the children, principals, teachers, TAs, noon supervisors, and the entire school community. Please keep them with us. I also oppose sending Michigan Tax Dollars to an out-of-state company. Shame on you - we should be keeping Michigan Tax Dollars in Michigan's Pockets. If AAPS is going to privatize - then lets be fair to all - first administrators, then the rest of the employees.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

No, no. and no. The custodians that currently are employed at the public schools play a major part in the overall atmosphere of the school - they not only keep our schools in tip top shape, they have a marvelous interaction with the children and staff. DO NOT PRIVATIZE and get lesser than what this community deserves. WHY are we sending Michigan Tax Payer dollars to a company in Illinois. Keep Michigan Tax Dollars in Michigan Pockets. From the last report from the financial chief, I believe he stated that even after all expenses were paid this year, there would be a $20 million balance in the savings fund.

Mike Nowak

Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 7:15 a.m.

I know a teacher who works in southfield and her experience with the contracted custodians is negative. They only do exactly what they are contracted for and don't do any extra to help set up for assemblies or other school functions, leaving that to the teachers. She days they have no interest in or loyalty to the school at all.

ronn oneal

Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 12:57 a.m.

@owlnite, Naw it aint okay! it's just not them or their family losing another (if any) income. same ole - same ole. @ignatz, really should get more involved if only to pass on experience for those that really want the best for the District. Private or not, the present custodians should have in house bids first before none employees begin to fill position as they open in time. I hope the best for the children how ever this turns out.

ronn oneal

Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 12:39 a.m.

maybe a small business with a handful of min. wage workers trying to make a honast living can feed their family too. the city pay and service dont add up. how much education do you need to push a broom and swing a mop? yeah for the smaller business gettin that contract.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 10:36 p.m.

You can share your thoughts with the Board of Education by emailing I am going to ask them to vote no on privatization, and to try to make all employee groups share the pain equitably.

Basic Bob

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 8:57 p.m.

@Maple, I understand your concern about a private business hiring ex-cons to work in the school. But what is so different about a private businessman and public service lackey working in an office making decisions? Does the public servant have a superior crystal ball or access to public records? Does the public servant care how well he does his job when he can't be fired? The private businessman risks everything to make a buck, while the lackey is content to do the minimum for a generous retirement benefit. Ultimately, the private businessman will have the same requirements for employees as the school system. His contract will not allow him to put known pedophiles (which is what you are *really* afraid of) into the public school buildings. And he will be more willing to pull the trigger on a bad employee than the entitlement class.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 8:42 p.m.

This sounds like a bad idea. I do NOT trust a private entity to hire people who are safe and qualified to work in a school around children. I don't care if that's for the lunch staff, security, or the custodians or anyone else. Schools should be independently, locally-run entities, where the people who make the decisions about whom to hire and how to run the facility are made by the people who have a direct, real interest in the children. Next thing we know there may be convicted sex offenders or drug addicts wandering the halls of the public schools because somebody over at that private contractor's headquarters (probably nowhere near Ann Arbor or even Michigan) were too lazy or dishonest to make tough, important decisions.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

just to let you know cleaning is not all they do


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 7:25 p.m.

@Macabre Sunset your comment may sound good but where is your proof,can we see it so we can check with these schools,I'm an employee of aaps and can speak on the great job our custodians do


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

It is sad that the schools are in this shape. But we have hit the point where it is either steps like these or much bigger class sizes (we are past the point of holding class sizes, now it is how big do they get?). We are already seeing class sizes of 26+ in the elementary schools and it just gets bigger as the kids get older. In the end I think we have to focus on reducing the impact in the classroom. When the millage failed people said the admin needed to find cost savings. Here they are. I doubt we will get the same level of service. I doubt it will be "fair" to the people who have these jobs. I doubt we will save as much as is currently expected. But I don't have a better option. If other people do, they should share it with Roberts.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 6:23 p.m.

This is beyond disappointing. How can AAPS think that privatizing custodians is at all fair or just? Why balance the budget on the backs of already underpaid workers? For anyone that has seen the daily variations of breaded/deep fried chicken that pass as school lunches, it is obvious that the Chartwells experiment has been a miserable failure. The privatization of the district subs has also been sickening in terms of pay (especially for long-term subs that earn as much as a sub filling in for a single day). Privatization has not worked well so far in the district; how does anyone expect different results this time?


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 6:14 p.m.

@Andrew: I'd hire the guy who pays his workers a good wage. Monies they get end up back in the community and benefit the workers' families. If I can't afford to pay that price, I wouldn't build. That's why I do without before going to Walmart. Besides, who are you going to call when the place falls apart and will you pay the extra costs for things you didn't think of when you sent out your original requests?

Andrew Thomas

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

So let's look at this in another way... Suppose you want to build an addition to your house. You get bids from three contractors. Two come in at $100,000 and one comes in at $120,000. All three have references from satisfied customers, all are licensed, insured, have been in business a while. You ask the high bidder why his price is out of line, and he tells you, "It's because these other guys don't pay their workers a fair wage, they don't give them a pension. I do. In order to cover my costs, I have to charge 20% more. But I think you should go with me because it's what's fair for my employees." What would you do? Honestly?

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

If that were the case, then no one would take the jobs. If we have to choose between taking pensions away from part-time janitors and our children having much larger class sizes, it's not a tough decision. Other districts are privatizing these services, and the schools are still clean.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Privatizing just means that the company owner will make out like a bandit, while workers slave for next to nothing...


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Privatizing seems to sound good. But in a public operation where employees are getting paid for a service ALL of the monies go to performing the service. In a privatized system there is a PROFIT for the Owner skimmed off of the top before the workers are paid. If the same amount of funds are allocated as before the new owner gets the benefits ( profit) while all other workers in the new company take a cut in pay, health and retirement. What a win for one owner and a disaster for the rest. Administrators need to step and solve the problem for the benefit of the district. "Ignatz" apparently has experience in this area. Most privatized operations I have seen put in place tend to fall apart a year or two later when the new owner demands more dollars to keep their profits up first and increasing expenditures last. I will make a bet it will cost the District more in the long run privatizing vs keeping the operation non-profit. That is generally the case financially and in goodwill.

Andrew Thomas

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

@ MikeAA: What you get now is grossly inflated costs due to a very generous pension plan. Wage rates will be similar under privatization, as will health insurance benefits. Current employees will be offered positions and most will probably accept them. So the same people will be providing the same services for about the same wages and health benefits. The cost saving will come from an approximately 19% surcharge for a pension. It's unfortunate that pension costs have become so excessive, but this is the reality most workers in the private sector have faced for many years. The old defined benefit plan is just way too costly. The article did not give details about the retirement plan offered by GCA, but my understanding is that is it some form of 401(k) plan funded by employee contributions. Don't know if there is any form of employer match.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:59 p.m.

If done right, Privatization = Free Market Competition = Market Rates. Anyone who has experienced performance issues under a contract must not have built sufficient performance metrics / exit strategies into that contract.

scooter dog

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

Always making the people who can least afford it the scapegoats for their budget woes. While were at it lets privatize teachers and administrators also.Their 75% of the problem.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

Id like to know when the old law of 'you get what you pay for' ceased to exist.

Jake C

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:34 p.m.

@Ignatz: Or most likely, you get both sub-standard service AND cost overruns.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

Thank you, Amalie!


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

Privatize! The call of administrators everywhere. I've seen this before. It's a fool's dream. You either get sub-standard service due to having a contract or pay through the nose for things not covered under that contract.