By Craig Masters
An open letter
To all Thompson School District custodial staff, families and friends:
In response to dozens of requests since January, two articles have been published to bring attention to the failures of school districts across the country to successfully allow custodial services within public schools to be adequately managed by private contractors.
Although it has probably taken longer than any of you would have liked, I sincerely hope this information will ease some of the tension and unwarranted stress you all have suffered these past few months. Below is a summary of what seems to be the series of events to date.
In December members of the school board suggested services departments investigate all opportunities where the district could save money within the department. Since the transportation department considered privatization as an option, so did facilities; without realizing that’s like comparing apples to walnuts. The resulting abusive workplace atmosphere appears to belong solely to Mr. Erickson. In his defense, he should have been given more specific directions and been properly supervised. My conclusion at this time is that the hostile work environment you have been subjected to is not due to the Board of Education instructions to staff, but to poor supervision and follow-up instructions when the situation first got out of control in January. No doubt if facilities supervisory staff would have been sat down and redirected weeks ago, this wasteful use of taxpayer money and demoralization of school staff could have been avoided. Creating such a hostile workplace environment is unacceptable, if not illegal. It should have been addressed, not denied.
Recently another child molester was reported arrested and charged – for at least the fourth time. But this time the story wasn’t in L.A. or San Francisco, this time it was closer to home in Denver and Jeffco School Districts. The two largest districts in Colorado. The “thorough” background checks were done by the Denver Police Department. Yet, with all those resources, another child was molested by a school employee.
The combination of the Denver story, the nationwide history of failure, the TSD failure from several years ago, and overwhelming evidence of negative financial realities nationwide should combine in a tsunami of opposition information and finally prompt the school board members to be committed to oppose privatization as a way to save a precious few dollars.
Nonetheless, if or when the superintendent’s staff ever presents a proposal to privatize custodial staff, it is my opinion that four of the six Board members would not put a few dollars of speculative savings above quality people and safety of the kids. I have no idea of how the other two will evaluate the safety of the kids, the quality of the people holding keys to the schools, the morale of the teaching staff, and the damaged relationship with parents resulting from the inevitable debate. That’s sad, but the bottom line is, 4 out of 6 would stop the nonsense anyway.