Op Ed: School Custodians Say Their Plan is Better

The Novato school district's implemented plan for custodial services understaffs the middle and elementary schools, leaving some "dirty, unsecured and unsafe."

The following is an Oct. 2 address to the Novato Unified School District Board of Trustees and district superintendent Shalee Cunningham from Mark Miller of local Chapter 312.

By Mark Miller

Trustees of the Board and Dr. Cunningham,

I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you on behalf of your classified Local Chapter 312.

I’ve given you a copy of the custodial staffing redistribution chart; a copy of a proposed Memorandum of Understanding presented by us in two meetings with the district, as a simple, albeit imperfect, alternative to the chart; and a (CASBO/district generated) custodial document that tries to simulate mathematically the custodial personnel needs of our schools. The site overages are in parentheses and the underages are not.

While the underages are close, I’ve added three more criteria for you when considering the overages. For example, the idea that Olive School can be cleaned and secured each night by a little over half of a full-time custodian bears no relationship to the boots-on-the-ground reality.

That said, the district’s plan, wholly inspired, created, and unilaterally implemented in an executive vacuum, accomplishes several things: 

  • Staffs the high schools, and overstaffs San Marin three nights a week 
  • Abandons six elementary schools and the district office 12 nights a week, leaving them dirty, unsecured, and unsafe 
  • Understaffs three middle schools six nights a week 
  • Lends itself to a lack of ownership and pride for our people 
  • Exposes a lack of supervision and accountability on your part and leaves the sour taste of non-negotiated impacts faced by ten night custodians being shuffled around like pawns in a losing chess game.

Our MOU, offered in lieu of negotiations, tosses out the custodial staffing comparisons, and using the same personnel, moves two custodians to new home sites. It ensures that every school can be cleaned, secured, and made safe each night, while leaving the high schools. at their original staffing, and Sinaloa at pre-2011/12 staffing. This leaves the high schools short again, but at least we have a staff and the hope for better times.

This offer was summarily dismissed because the powers that be are so married to their plans, ratios, and perceived fairness that, and I quote, “It is not in the district’s interest to have every site cleaned every night.”

Oh, by the way, they don’t feel the need to negotiate the impacts that are already being felt by the itinerate custodians, day custodians and office managers. I’m sure that the affected teachers, administrators, parents and our students at the nine elementary and middle school sites will now understand the importance of their sacrifice of cleanliness, security and possible safety for the benefit of our two high schools.

Sadly, we now have to petition the PERB board for an impasse resolution. You’ll hear the grumblings increase as this district’s definition of “collaboration” becomes more like “because we say so.” Any member of the team or I would welcome you and anyone from the district to rekindle a conversation.

Thank you for your time.

— Mark Miller

LP October 09, 2012 at 04:03 AM
That's just wonderful of the district to choose not to have clean and secure schools. It always amazes me that while people are being cut from the school sites the district can find "jobs" for the higher ranking until the meet their retirement goals (think about it, how many prinicipals and others have worked a year or two at the district office before retirement, I know a few). It's just another job for the teachers to personally clean their classrooms because the district can't be bothered with cleanliness.


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