LUTCHER — St. James Parish School Board members on Tuesday sought clarification from two representatives from Aramark, the private company providing custodial services at parish schools, about who is actually performing the janitorial work and at what cost to the district.
Board members also discussed a clerical error that led to them not receiving advance notification from school officials of Aramark’s automatic one-year contract renewal as required by a School Board vote last year.
School Board President Charles Nailor said board members had received some complaints that Aramark was “subbing out” workers from another janitorial company to clean St. James Parish schools.
“You are paying us to manage a scope of work,” said Terrance Ransfer, a vice president with Aramark Education. Ransfer said Aramark hires and manages laborers from Jani-Care Commercial Cleaning Inc. to perform the actual custodial work.
These workers, all from St. James Parish, wear uniforms with the Aramark and Jani-Care logo, Aramark representative Brent Gautreau said.
Recent surveys conducted by Aramark at the parish schools showed the company receiving nothing but positive reviews, Ransfer said.
However, School Board member George Nassar said he was “surprised” to learn this was how Aramark worked.
Nassar wondered why the School Board was paying Aramark as a managerial service and asked if the School Board could sub out workers from a cheaper company.
Aramark provides full custodial service at Fifth Ward and Gramercy elementary schools and Lutcher and St. James high schools. Additional services as requested are provided to other schools in the system, according to a memo by Jim Mitchell, parish schools administrative director of business.
Aramark also provides management and supervisory personnel for all custodial staff, including Aramark and School Board custodial employees, Mitchell said.
A cost analysis prepared by Mitchell’s office and based on September employment figures and expenses from Aramark show Aramark’s annual cost for one supervisor and 26 full-time employees in the district totaled $736,764.
If the School Board attempts to use its custodial employees for the same work, the cost would total nearly $1.5 million due to group health care coverage, retirement contributions and other costs, Mitchell said in the memo.
The $740,868 in annual savings the School Board gains by employing Aramark for these services continues to represent “a substantial saving,” Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, board member Ricky Reulet Jr. said the School Board had approved a motion during the July 16, 2013, School Board meeting requiring 120-day notification prior to Aramark’s annual contract renewal on July 1, 2014.
“Someone had to notify us and no one did,” Reulet said.
That motion was not included as being approved in official meeting minutes, St. James Parish Superintendent Alonzo Luce said.
Jessica Thomassee, administrative assistant to the School Board and the superintendent’s office, said she will listen to the tape recording from the meeting to double-check what took place.
Reulet claimed the School Board’s contract renewal with Aramark is not valid, but Nailor said Aramark must be notified 60 days in advance prior to any changes to the contract or if the School Board decides to seek bids from another company.
Mitchell said he will commit to notifying the School Board by March 1 each year to fulfill the board members’ 120-day notification.