Isle of Wight Schools renew janitorial contract

Published 9:50 am Monday, June 14, 2010

ISLE OF WIGHT—The School Board of Isle of Wight County voted Thursday to renew its contract with SSC Service Solutions Corp. to provide custodial services at the county’s nine public schools.

The board voted 4-1 to renew the contract. David Goodrich, who chairs the school board and represents the Smithfield District, was the lone dissenting vote. He declined to comment on his vote after the meeting.

“They appear to be doing a good job,” Kenneth Bunch, who represents the Carrsville District, said after the meeting. “We got reports back from the committee that was (looking into the matter), and the principals on that committee said they were satisfied with what was going on in the buildings and happy with (SSC).”

Hardy District representative Herbert DeGroft concurred.

“Employee relations have not been their strong suit,” DeGroft said Friday. “But the reason why I voted to go ahead and give them the contract again is that we know what we have. Hopefully they have taken some corrective actions to make their supervisory workforce more effective and more employee-oriented.

“But based upon the testimony of the three principals, and having had minimal criticisms by other principals during this last year, I thought this was the best course of action.”

Carrsville Elementary School principal Jackie Carr, Windsor High School principal C. Michael Newman and Smithfield High School principal Rebecca Mercer all testified at Thursday’s meeting. They did not comment to the media afterward.

T. Hayes Griffin, who represents the Windsor District, also declined to comment on the contract renewal.

School division spokeswoman Katherine Goff said SSC, which is based in Knoxville, Tenn., would be awarded a one-year contract worth $950,004, four dollars more than the one-year contract the company had which expires on June 30. Goff said she didn’t know the reason behind the unusual increase.

Division clerk Sharon Gwaltney said the division received more than one bid for the custodial services contract.

It was unclear how the contract renewal with SSC would affect possible litigation against the school board, filed one year ago by the Isle of Wight Education Association and with the backing of the Virginia Education Association.

Both groups claim the school board failed to advertise its intentions to privatize custodial services last year, a decision that ultimately affected 44 employees.

“I’m very surprised,” Stephanie Bailey, president of the IWEA and the nurse at Carrollton Elementary School, said Friday. “With the condition of the buildings and the way things are, I just can’t believe that they would go back with them.”

Bailey is listed as the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Aug. 11 in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court against the school board. Court records indicate the suit was dismissed on May 17.

Asked if the suit would be renewed, Bailey said, “I don’t know what the VEA stand is going to be.”

Bailey said the IWEA and the VEA filed Freedom of Information Act requests and discovered that SSC had submitted the lowest bid for the contract last year.

“The next one up would not have even been cost effective for them to outsource,” Bailey said. “But I’m surprised that in a recession a company from Tennessee is able to come in and outbid people in Virginia.”