Plans for in-house custodial services are in the works at the four schools under the New Beginnings Schools Foundation administrative umbrella — a shift school leaders hope will cut costs and streamline operations.
Director of operations Thomas Stevens told the board at its April 14 meeting that he hopes to sever ties with GCA Services Group Inc., the nationwide conglomerate currently providing custodial services at Lake Area New Tech, Medard H. Nelson, Pierre A. Capdau and Gentilly Terrace charter schools.
The GCA contract costs New Beginnings $484,000 annually, according to the 2014-2015 Facilities and Maintenance Report presented to the board. The report estimates that the in-house model will cost $395,901 annually, for a savings of $88,099.
Stevens cited ineffective upper management and a lack of accountability as primary reasons for not renewing the contract with GCA, which runs month-to-month. Under the current structure, custodial staff report to GCA managers, not school leaders.
“Our principals are an afterthought for some custodians,” Stevens said. “Because the chain of command is so far from [principals’] reach, they can’t get the things done that they need to in a timely manner.”
The new internal staffing structure would employ 23 custodians, the same number currently working in the network. Stevens said he will recruit many of the GCA employees already on the job at New Beginnings schools.
Beyond cost savings and efficiency, Thomas said he thinks that an in-house model will better reflect the values and priorities of the schools.
“We think this model will better promote safety and security in our schools,” he said. “It’s one that is patterned after the traditional values that most of us grew up with, when we personally knew all the janitors who were in our schools.”
Stevens said he has identified different companies that can provide the cleaning supplies, equipment and custodial training now in GCA’s hands.
“There is a learning curve, but I think the quality of the work will go up astronomically,” Stevens said.
Stevens fielded questions from the board members about the change. Sametta Brown, New Beginnings chief executive officer, said she hoped the board would give the go-ahead.
Board chairman Ramsey Green said members could not officially vote on the issue because it wasn’t on the agenda, but that it could be brought up for action at May’s meeting.
In her financial report to the board, chief financial officer Karen Craig said she is in negotiations with the University of New Orleans about rising rent. The school network used to be run by the UNO Foundation and until last month, UNO handled the network’s accounting, according to Craig.
Annual rent for the network’s accounting offices on UNO’s campus is increasing from $36,300 to $46,680, Craig said. But a new in-house accounting system will save the network $10,000 monthly, more than making up for the rent increase.
Craig said the budget draft will be finalized within the next week, presented to the board’s finance committee on April 30, and to the full board at its meeting May 12.
The board voted to welcome Valkessha Marshall as its newest member. Marshall, who holds a master’s degree in education, has two children at New Beginnings schools. She will serve as the board’s parent representative.
In addition to Green and Marshall, board members present included Leslie Bouie, Wanda Brooks, Travis Chase, Carla Major, Kathy Saloy, Donald Wheat, Jade Brown Russell and Austin Zaunbrecher. Autumn Harrell, Marc Boucree and Shelia Danzey did not attend.
The meeting was called to order at 5:33 p.m. and adjourned at 6:45 p.m. The next board meeting will be May 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, 6026 Paris Ave.