Tesh to clean Cd'A High - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Tesh to clean Cd'A High

Move is expected to save school district $20,000 per year

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Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 12:15 am

COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene school board's recent decision to contract with Tesh, Inc. to provide evening janitorial services at Coeur d'Alene High School is expected to save the school district $20,000 per year while providing employment opportunities for Kootenai County residents with disabilities.

At their Aug. 6 meeting, trustees voted unanimously to approve a 10-month contract with Tesh - a Kootenai County nonprofit that provides child development, independent living and employment services for people with disabilities.

"It offers us an opportunity to manage our costs downward and an opportunity for Tesh to have a very viable customer," said Wendell Wardell, the district's chief operations officer.

At the same time, it's a "community connection," Wardell said, because many Tesh workers have come through the district's special education programs.

"We just see this as an enhancement of that relationship," he said.

Wardell said that if things go well at CHS, and he expects they will, that he is eager to expand Tesh's services into other district school buildings.

The CHS contract calls for Tesh to provide janitorial services Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to midnight in classrooms, the media center and all small rest rooms.

Tesh has been providing commercial cleaning services to area business for 30 years, but this is the first time they have gone into the schools, said Tesh CEO Russ Doumas.

"We're very excited about this," Doumas said.

Some of Tesh's current customers include Kootenai County Solid Waste Department, the Idaho Transportation Department, Blue 541 and Idaho Fish and Game.

In a recent letter to The Press, Jon Pequignot, of Coeur d'Alene praised Tesh's work at Farragut State Park: "As a disabled veteran, I have had the opportunity to stay at many military, government and commercial campgrounds. I have never seen cleaner facilities than what the Tesh crew maintain at Farragut."

Tesh will be paid a contracted rate of $8,648 per month from mid-August through mid-June.

The contract includes a clause that allows either party to terminate it at any time with 30-day notice.

During the trustees' meeting, Wardell said board chair Tom Hamilton tasked him with looking outside the school system for savings solutions for support services.

"What we directed specifically was to look at non-classroom types of activities that the district takes on that we may be able to outsource at a cost savings," Hamilton said.

Other services, including transportation and grounds keeping, are being similarly scrutinized, he said.

"Overall, it's a win for the community," Hamilton told The Press. "It's supporting a local nonprofit, and saving tax dollars."

Not everyone is excited about the Tesh contract.

Rick Jones, a counselor at Coeur d'Alene High School and vice president of the Idaho Education Association, the state teachers union, spoke at the board meeting. He told trustees he had concerns about the cost of the contract, and asked them to delay making a decision on it.

"I'm all for providing opportunities for special needs individuals, which is my understanding who would be fulfilling these services. I could probably put names to many of those faces, and I certainly support that, but when looking at it strictly from a financial perspective, it's something I think needs to be looked at a little bit closer," Jones said.

He also asked how many fewer custodians will be at CHS as a result of the Tesh contracted services.

The district had five custodians at CHS, and now it will have two daytime custodians and no night custodians. The district administration's decision to explore a contract with Tesh was prompted by the resignation of three custodians.

During the board meeting, Wardell said the process had been studied over the course of a year.

"We would not sign a contract with Tesh if we hadn't investigated everything that you're concerned about," Wardell said, in response to Jones' testimony.

Superintendent Hazel Bauman said that reorganizing the custodial staff has been through attrition, that no employee lost a job to accommodate the Tesh contract.

She said the district is forced to shrink its staff in all areas, and that it has already done so with teachers, administrators and counselors, and "this parallel in the custodial world" is no different.

"It will save us money. It will provide gainful employment for a group that finds it very difficult to find employment, and we will try it out," Bauman said.

If the schools are not cleaned to district standards, district leadership will consider terminating the contract after 90 days.

The contract calls for Tesh workers to go through background checks and wear Tesh-identifiable uniforms. Tesh will maintain its own worker's compensation, unemployment, vehicle and general liability coverages, which is likely to result in additional "non-direct" savings to the district, Wardell said.

"I fully expect, after 90 days, I'll be able to make a decision how many more (schools) I can add because these people are eager to work," Wardell said.

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  • riversharkes posted at 2:55 pm on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    riversharkes Posts: 100

    good bye to a job with benefits....this will be great, keep lowering wages so everyone is on public assistance.....
    but if we do want to save money in this area of school service then every class should be equipted with a vacuum cleaner and one kid per day could clean floor while other kids help pick up and clean the white boards...put garbage cans in hallway for custodian to pick up....one custodiand to clean bathrooms and office area...
    AND NO FOOD IN CLASSROOMS!!!!! thats half the problem with cleaning rooms
    also get the darn carpet out rooms and hallways....what a maintenance mess
    these are cost saving ideas that I have come up with as a former district custodian

  • SamuelStanding posted at 8:54 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 588

    Part of being a "Good neighbor" is working with the community -the very same community who vote on levies.

    Tesh employees will work hard and will do a good job. The savings for this district come from not offering or paying benefits to "EMPLOYEES." Contract workers are the responsibility of the vendor, so having acknowledged that...Will quality of work suffer? If attrition is the mean of downsizing and not replacing the past worker(s) with another -say "unemployed and qualified worker" only time will tell if quality of cleaning becomes an issue, it just surprises me that the contract did not involve an elementary building? Something smaller than a large high school to test? Are you setting TESH up for failure? If so, the District looks like a supportative partner in the area, but "Hey" when the employees of TESH are overwhelmed and the contract VOID, then CDA 271 can shrug their shoulders and say "Not our fault. They (TESH) failed."

    Curious to see how this plays out?

  • hayden_guy posted at 8:44 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    hayden_guy Posts: 400

    The funny part of all if this is that it likely will not be a savings to the tax payer. Sure on the surface it will appear that it its (it will be a savings to the school district, apparently), but note that Tesh does not pay any health benefits.
    What happens when people who are paid minimum wage, or just above, and have no benefits get sick? They use Medicaid. Who pays for medicaid? The tax payers.
    Low wage employees often are on food stamps and many other forms of welfare.
    ....just some food for thought.

  • hayden_guy posted at 8:27 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    hayden_guy Posts: 400

    "The contract calls for Tesh workers to go through background checks"
    Who is paying for these checks? The district is..... yet every other district employee has to pay for background checks themselves.
    Why does Tesh not pay for these checks?

    These are all baby steps to privatizing education. Watch for outsourcing the food service next, then.....

  • JonUSMC posted at 8:24 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    JonUSMC Posts: 98

    I've seen what a great job the TESH folks do on cleaning at Farragut State Park rest rooms. They won't be sorry to use TESH>

  • Adamsfly posted at 6:46 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    Adamsfly Posts: 46

    Hst's off to Hazel and the school board. This was an excelent decision. The individuals at Tesh will do a great job.

  • Adamsfly posted at 6:46 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    Adamsfly Posts: 46

    Hst's off to Hazel and the school board. This was an excelent decision. The individuals at Tesh will do a great job.

  • voxpop posted at 6:03 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Union reps just can't stop themselves from chewing on their foot. What a great opportunity for the IEA to make a statement about TESH, rather than publicly worrying about losing union membership. If you've ever been in the classroom you'd know the irritation when the night custodian was sick, or just took the night off. The only thing that happened was MAYBE your waste basket was emptied but little else. This deal is good for everyone, except the IEA apparently.

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