PLAINFIELD – Dozens of Plainfield School District 202 support staff union members lined up near the entrance of the district administrative building Monday to rally against potential outsourcing.
Dressed in red and waving signs that said “Just say ‘No’ to outsourcing,” the Plainfield Association of Support Staff members and their supporters chanted as some district officials and board members passed by them to head into the building for the board meeting.
“Subcontracting will not divide. We are standing side by side,” yelled Marty Paczkowski, a PASS member and custodian, through a megaphone at the rally.
District 202 officials’ announcement earlier this month that they were considering outsourcing custodial services came as a “complete shock” to PASS members, who have since planned to rally and pack Board of Education meetings from February to May.
Board President Michelle Smith read a statement at Monday’s meeting saying she had to apologize to parents, staff and custodians “who have been misled by blatantly inaccurate information” about board members’ consideration of outsourcing.
“At no time has the Board of Education considered or discussed replacing our entire staff with outside employees,” she said.
She said discussions about outsourcing initially arose in response to concerns of a possible strike by custodians during the upcoming PASS negotiations.
The district is obligated to keep buildings open, clean and well-maintained and one way to do so in the event of the strike is to contract with a third party, she said.
“In the process of investigating how that could even be done, we learned that there may be potential cost savings of $1 to $2 million. With that large of a potential cost savings, we are compelled by our fiduciary duty to taxpayers to fully understand the difference between our existing internal staffing and the outsourcing option,” she said.
Several speakers at the meeting spoke out against potential outsourcing.
PASS President John Piechocinski said to the board that if the district outsources custodial services they will never maintain high-quality employees or the same level of cleanliness, safety or security that exists now.
“We live in the community, we send our children here to school, we work here, shop here, pay taxes here, worship here and support our local businesses and community,” he said.
One speaker at the meeting asked if any board member has a connection with a custodian company. Board member Rod Westfall said no board members have “any tie-in with any outsourcing companies.”
“Even if we did, we would step back and not have any comments on it at all. Period,” he said.