Privatization of certain school functions became a bone of contention during last Thursday night’s joint meeting of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors and the school board.
During the meeting, which was held in the Thomas Calhoun Walker Education Center, Ware district school board member Kim Hensley issued a rebuttal to York district supervisor Phillip Bazzani’s presentation the previous week encouraging the school board to explore privatizing certain functions that he said would not directly impact educating the students.
Privatization would basically outsource certain services formerly provided by the local government, such as cafeteria, transportation and information technology, to private companies which, Bazzani said, often increases government efficiency and reduces operating costs.
Hensley said privatization is not a new idea for the school board. “The school board’s been there, done that; and I bought the T-shirt,” she said.
She said the school division outsourced custodial and ground services around 2002. However, it wasn’t successful because, she said, the quality of the work suffered.
Right now, she said Gloucester County Public Schools outsources a number of different services including septic, masonry, concrete repair, and pest control.
“This is something the school board is cognizant of and we look at and do everything we can to combine the efficiency and effectiveness (of our services),” Hensley said.
However, she added, “efficiency and effectiveness are not synonymous. … Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean I should buy it.”
She also countered Baz- zani’s argument that the types of services in question would not directly impact educating the students. “Support services directly impact education,” Hensley said, mentioning how custodians do things such as helping elementary school students tie their shoes and how bus drivers give their students encouragement on upcoming tests and quizzes.
Hensley said Isle of Wight County is saving money by outsourcing custodial services because they don’t pay into the Virginia Retirement System for those workers anymore.
She said private organizations are also not open to the same public information laws that the school system is required to comply with and that when local employees are rehired for “degraded” jobs, it negatively impacts the entire community.
She also said Bazzani, throughout his presentation, relied on an article by Geoffrey Segal. “Mr. Segal, it was noted, worked for the Reason Foundation,” Hensley said. “I thought it was interesting when I Googled him that his title at the Reason Foundation was the director of privatization. So, I think that when the director of privatization is writing an article about why you should privatize, that makes you look at it a little differently.”