Is the start of the Unified School System in jeopardy?
Its school board met Thursday to decide on new contracts for janitorial and transportation services but the meeting fell apart as board members they didn't have the votes to pass the contracts. The members adjourned without getting anything done.
This was a special board meeting as only two items were on the agenda. The 23-member board was there to approve a contractor to handle janitorial services and a contractor to take care of transportation in the new Unified district.
The board had already approved outsourcing these services. The approval took place in February. Interim Superintendent Dorsey Hopson recommended the board go with a Knoxville company called GCS. The company already handles janitorial services for Shelby County Schools.
All current janitors in the Memphis City Schools would be able to keep their jobs with the new company if they passed a background check, but they would be paid slightly less. The company would save the school system about $12.7 million a year.
It would take a two-thirds vote to pass the new contract. Board members voted twice and they even voted for another company - Aramark Education. But all the votes failed.
This really turned into a debate over outsourcing. Board chair Billy Orgel reminded the group they had already made that decision.
"When it gets down to it, this is not a decision this was at this point a budget decision," he said. "It was like selecting any other vendor for anything we do because we'd already voted to make the very difficult decision that could effect the lives of some people in our community to outsource.
"We just need to get passed all the noise and all the clutter and make decisions that are right for our community right for our children," he added.
After the votes on the janitorial contracts failed, one of the commissioners voted to adjourn without considering the transportation contracts. Interim Superintendent Hopson implored the board to act. He says a failure to make these decisions is putting the school system at risk.
So there was a complete failure to get anything done. They rehashed old debates. But the two issues are going to come back up on Tuesday as the board will have another special meeting to reconsider these two contracts.