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Isle of Wight EA Challenges Outsourcing

When the Isle of Wight schools closed their doors for the summer break, some 40 custodians were among the ranks of school system employees, earning decent wages and benefits for the challenging work they do.

After a closed-door school board vote June 25, though, none of them works for the school system any longer.

That's because the school board opted to outsource custodial services to a Tennessee firm, SSC Service Solutions, in an action the Association is challenging in court. The firm said it would offer jobs to current employees, but not at their present pay.

A suit filed against the Isle of Wight school board in circuit court says the board did not comply with a requirement to provide sufficient advance public notice of the June 25 meeting. Therefore, the suit argues, the contracting agreement reached at that meeting should be voided.

No decision has been reached on the suit, but Isle of Wight custodians already are suffering the effects of the board's action. Employees with the school division were earning up to $15-16 an hour, plus VRS and health benefits, said Stephanie Bailey, president of the Isle of Wight Education Association.  "With this new company, they went down to $9 an hour, and the health benefits are the pits," she said.

A local columnist with the Daily Press, Tamara Dietrich, has written several articles bringing the mistreatment to light. In one of the articles, she quoted longtime custodian Dimitrious Giles, a VEA member, who said the outsourcing had her worried about the status of her accumulated sick leave and retirement. "At least we have our jobs, I'm glad of that," she told Dietrich.

Several weeks after SSC Service Solutions took over custodial services, Giles was dismissed. She told Dietrich an SSC supervisor told her she had "an attitude."

No wonder that staff morale has taken a hit in Isle of Wight, said Bailey. "We've always been like a family," she said. "This disruption affects education. We have strangers walking around in our buildings who we don't know."








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