Cassia school board postpones privatization move

Burley, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) After what was described as one of the most crowded school district meetings in recent memory by both meeting attendees and school officials the Cassia County School District board of trustees unanimously voted to postpone their move to privatize janitorial, maintenance, and grounds keeping services within the district.

Attendees at a Cassia County School District board of trustees meeting look on during the public comment period session regarding the district's move to privatize maintenance, custodial, and grounds keeping services. (KMVT/KSVT)

At the school district meeting on Thursday, current school district employees, members of the Idaho Education Association packed the room to express their disagreement with the district's move to privatize.

"Hopefully today employees will have their voices heard, and everyone's been collecting petitions. We have over a thousand signatures," Co-President of the Cassia Education Association, Marta Hernandez said.

The Education Association filed grievance against the district for it's move to privatize services in part due to what they say was a process that violated open meeting laws.

"When were received the publication on May 31 from our school district it was a done deal on the opening, Hernandez said. "It's on our website that it was a done deal."

Another meeting attendee, Tim Fisher, who works for the school district as a carpenter showed pictures of what he said was evidence as unsafe removal of radioactive material belonging to the district. And that the move to privatize these services is done in retaliation for bringing this information to the school district's attention.

"There were some radioactive exit signs that were improperly stored, and I had co-worker that was directed to throw them in the garbage."

The school district unequivocally denied this claim in a statement sent to KMVT.

"To make a connection between conversations about changing operational aspects of our district and a single safe workplace incident is simply not true. The Board has discussed more efficient facility management for years.
There is no retaliation or connection between these two separate issues. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the timelines show the contrary. The complaint was addressed. The Board will discuss possible operational changes on June 20. "

One of the main concerns of employees even if their rehired by ABM is they could use vitally important benefits or experience changes in their employment status.

"Not only is this affecting 60 employees we have someone who's been working for our school district for 20 years," Hernandez. "The day before he came to my home. He was taking his wife to treatment for cancer."

The school district says ABM, the company contracted to take on this work, intends to retain school district employees. Marta is still skeptical.

"I intend to do a lot of things but that doesn't mean it's happening . There's nothing in writing," Hernandez said.

And that her concern is of the employees and the community.

"What's best for our students, what's best for our employees because together, Hernandez. "We are Cassia County School district."

According to a spokesperson for the school district, they ensure they are doing what they can to address the matters state in the grievance and take the concerns of all potentially affected parties series.

Hernandez stressed the Cassia County is lucky to have such an invested and intelligent board that really takes into their employees and students.

She said she applauds their move to postpone a decision on the ABM proposal as they do their due diligence in talking to school district employees and working out the finer details of the plans effects over the next 30 days.