News and Tribune

December 17, 2012

NA-FC custodial contract agreement reached

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — A short contract extension to May 2013 was granted to Sodexo for an estimated additional $150,000, but the board of trustees for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. is already beginning to look for a new custodial services provider after a vote at Monday’s meeting.

The contract also changes from a full-time equivalent-based contract — which requires a certain level of staffing — to a performance-based contract. Though the board will pay more for two extra months of service, NA-FC Deputy Superintendent Brad Snyder said there’s still no guarantee that Sodexo won’t lay off any of the custodians between January and the end of May.

The board voted in favor of the extension 5-2, with Lee Cotner and Rebecca Gardenour, board members, opposing.

Snyder said the change in contract type isn’t just something the district will have to look at with Sodexo for now, but with any company they hire from this point on.

“We think a movement or transition at some point in time to move away from this FTE-level discussion to a performance-level discussion is best in the long run...,” Snyder said. “It took your team a very long time with the same frustrations of counting bodies and this type of thing to realize that our interests are clean buildings.”

Sodexo’s strained relationship with the NA-FC School Corp. began last month when it reported to the board that it was losing twice as much money in one year as it had anticipated. The board fired back with concerns about how the contract was initially negotiated.

Cotner said part of the problem was the district’s approach to its current employees when it was seeking proposals last year. He said grandfathering employees at the same pay rate the district was paying was part of the problem.

“We basically got in this position because we tried to dictate to Sodexo how they want to do their business plan,” Cotner said. “I mean, in a corporate world, what we would have done if we had outsourced this is said who’s the best bidder, who’s the most responsive bidder? Here’s your contract, go out and do it.”

The board could have allowed the contract to expire at the end of March without paying anything extra, but Bill Wiseheart, director of facilities, said that would give the district less time to request proposals, narrow the field of vendors, select a company and make a transition.

D.J. Hines, board member, said he didn’t think a transition from one company to another would be good for the schools with two months left to go before summer break.

“I hate to see us in the short term in the middle of the year change the type of contract and potentially laying off people... not potentially, they’re going to lay off people,” Hines said. “If that happens with the next vendor, that might be a circumstance we have to live with.”

Roger Whaley, board member, asked Snyder if he expected to see Sodexo lay off employees in the next five months.

“Yes,” Snyder said.

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Whaley said. “You don’t have any other choices.”

In other business, the board also heard several parents with concerns about the differences in grade weighing policies at New Albany High School and Floyd Central High School.

At the Nov. 12 board meeting, Neal Renn, one of the parents with concerns about the policies, told the board about how his son may not get accepted into Indiana University under Floyd Central’s grade weighing, but would get accepted if he attended New Albany High School instead.

On Tuesday, he said his son’s extra work in Advanced Placement and honors courses don’t give him the advantage he thought he’d get when he signed up for them.

“For all that work, he gets 1/12 of a letter grade for his extra work...,” Renn said. “If he took the same [course] in New Albany, he gets, are you ready for this, two full letter grades, 24 times the reward for the same work. So there’s no balance there.”

Cathy Miller said her daughter also attends Floyd Central High School and takes AP and honors courses. She said though the plan to change the weighing policies and even them out will go into effect next year, it doesn’t help the class of 2013.

She also said parents nor students knew about the differences in how grades were weighed at the two high schools when they enrolled her freshman year.

“If we would have been told at any point along the line that if your daughter goes to New Albany, she can get a 4.0 for the same classes that she is now getting a 3.6 at Floyd Central, we would have done that,” Miller said. “And it’s really a pathetic thing to know we have to drive down the street and enroll our daughter in a different consolidated school to get a different grade.”

Louis Jensen, director of high schools, said making sure students have the same grading policies in place from their freshman year on is the most fair way to approach the situation. He also said even if they did change the policies for students now, colleges would only look at the weighted averages before a change or transfer from one school to another.

He also said he thought it was unethical to change the grades on a transcript for any reason other than a mistake on the part of the teacher.

“The transcript, as a former principal, is one of those sacred documents,” Jensen said. “You don’t change grades. I never changed a grade, I never went to a teacher and said ‘you need to change the grade.’ The only time we would change a grade is if it was a computational error.”

He said if the changes were implemented now, seven of the students in the district tied for a first-place ranking in the class of 2013 would be at risk of losing that placement.

He also said colleges across the state treat weighted grades differently. Some want to see the unweighted scores while others want to see weighted averages, and Purdue even weighs based on its own formulas.

Superintendent Bruce Hibbard said it would be unfair to change grading policies in the middle of a student’s high school career, but policies on figuring out how to weigh grades are also complicated.

He said while it’s been worked out for the class of 2014, weighing grades is largely a philosophical choice within a district and schools across the country weigh grades differently.

He said discussions on how to weigh an orchestra class versus an AP physics class are difficult, as are other courses because of the types of skills and level of difficulty entailed, but also how those difficulties and skills are perceived.

“That’s the type of discussion that goes on when trying to figure out which course should be weighted and which course should not be weighted, and it even gets into worse than just orchestra and AP physics, but that’s kind of the discussion,” Hibbard said.