Hartford School Workers Say Shortages Imperil Safety
November 06, 2010
Several dozen city school custodians, tradesmen, food-service workers and other workers rallied Saturday at the Capital Preparatory Magnet School on North Main Street to protest a shortage of staff and a lack of cleaning supplies.
The workers say the lack of staff and supply shortages undermines safety, cleanliness and the health of more than 20,000 students attending Hartford schools.
Levey Kardulis, president of AFSCME Local 566, said the rally was meant to bring attention to a lack of staffing in city schools at a time when millions of dollars are being spent to modernize and expand them.
Capital Prep, in the former Barnard Brown School building, is a perfect example, Kardulis said. Having recently undergone a $47 million makeover, there are only two custodians assigned to clean approximately 130,000 square feet of space.
"We're not getting any surface cleaning done," Kardulis said, pointing out spreading illnesses could be the result. "With two guys, all you're going to get done is trash and sweeping, and that's it."
Kardulis said that the staffing shortage is an issue at other schools, and that the custodians are being overworked and in some cases disciplined for being unable to keep up with the workload.
Kardulis said he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry to hire another custodian. Perry responded to Kardulis in writing in September, saying his main goal is to provide students with the education necessary to prepare them for acceptance into college.
"The formula for custodial placement is arbitrary," Perry wrote. "Hiring 1 more custodian is not going to stop the spread of the flu or any other seasonal virus. The kids at Capital Prep are safe without 3 custodians. Any characterization to the contrary is insincere and opportunistic."
Perry also wrote that in order to hire another custodian he would have to fire a teacher. Kardulis said that is untrue.
"I don't know of any teachers making $28,000 a year," Kardulis said, adding that Capital Prep's adminstration includes an assistant principal, dean of students and community liaison for a school of 350 students.
Kardulis said there are two schools with two custodians and another 15 with three custodians, including the Montessori Magnet School at Annie Fisher that recently completed a $43 million renovation and expansion and the University High School of Science and Engineering, which cost $50 million to build.
Kardulis said that the schools would need to hire 25 to 30 custodians to bring staffing levels to where they should be. In 2008, Kardulis said, more than 30 custodians were laid off. In 2009, another dozen or so reductions were made, but those positions have been restored, he said.
Superintendent Steven Adamowski declined to comment on plans for the rally, but pointed to his recent state of the schools speech in which he said staffing cuts have had a negative impact on the schools in a variety of ways.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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