School Board Members Prepare for Pivotal Vote

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Few votes are as big as the one the Rockford School Board and member Karol Hammond will make this Tuesday.

"This is a critical issue that affects the whole community," Hammond said.

What's at stake: whether to keep 190 district custodial jobs or fire the workers and replace them with cheaper, non-local contractors. Board member Alice Saudargas says the custodians must dig deeper from their $2 million in concessions. Others point to recent winter weather problems as proof that outside work won't pan out.

"Just what is happening with outsourcing for snow plowing, all the complaints and all the letters I received, it's not working," Hammond said.

Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson says the contractors would save the district $3.5 million next year. However, some board members have concerns about just how much would be saved factoring in unemployment pay, and whether cutting the custodians is truly the best financial solution.

"They're dedicated and they're hard-working, and I believe that to outsource them is unjustifiable," Hammond said.

And just two days from the vote, board members like Jay Nellis say they're continuing to weigh the pros and cons, for a decision that will impact hundreds of workers in 2005, and well beyond.

"Where will be a year from now if we outsource? Where will these people's lives be that have lived in our community, paid tax dollars?" Hammond said.

It’s a short and long-term decision that board members will make in the very short term this Tuesday.