Brown Deer School District mulls custodial job changes

Feb. 12, 2014

Brown Deer — School custodial staff in Brown Deer could be taken off the district's payroll as part of a proposal that bubbled to the surface Tuesday.

Members of the district's Finance and Facilities Committee discussed Brown Deer's relationship with Johnson Controls. It has included so-called performance contracting — an arrangement that gives the Glendale-based company the opportunity to identify large-scale energy efficiency and infrastructure improvement projects.

Outsourcing oversight of the district's 16 custodial staffers to Johnson Controls could potentially yield cost savings to the district, although specific figures were not discussed during Tuesday's meeting.

Doug Geurts, solutions director with Johnson Controls, asserted the outsourcing arrangement could yield "significant savings." He also stated that "existing key employees could be retained."

In the current staffing iteration, Brown Deer's custodial staff — the employees who perform building cleaning, grounds and maintenance work — are unionized. Johnson Controls is proposing retaining some of the employees and offering "a living wage."

"There's a benefit to the school district focusing on education and us focusing on the facilities," Geurts said of the proposed staffing arrangement.

However, during this week's discussion of the issue, Director of Finance Emily Koczela emphasized a final decision is far from official.

"I know we're going to take a few more runs at this," Koczela said to committee members. "I ask you to mull this over."

Several committee members, including Barry Schulman, questioned the merits of outsourcing the custodial staff. Schulman said he was concerned new custodial subcontractors could be brought into the fold.

"They won't know our facilities like our current ones do," Schulman said. "(Facilities Manager) Robert (Pocza) will have to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are."

Looking back at the past several years, Koczela praised the current custodial staff for its work during the large-scale construction project that entailed reducing the district campus from three to two buildings.

"There are some who have been here a long time," Koczela said, pointing to the benefits of retaining the existing custodial staff. "We owe it to some of them."

School Board member Michael Bembenek, who chairs the committee, said a number of steps will be taken before a final recommendation is brought to the full board for an ultimate decision.

"We will be seeking input from the custodial staff," Bembenek said.

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