Board View: A cautionary tale from Bullitt County Schools
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
Bullitt County school board member Lorraine McLaughlin has some advice for school board members who are considering outsourcing services: Look beyond the dollar signs.
McLaughlin was the Bullitt County board’s chairwoman in 2012 when the district was looking at outsourcing custodial services – a move that was abandoned after an outcry from the system’s custodial staff and local education association. Parents also were concerned because they trusted and loved their school’s custodians, she said.
“Yes, it’s good to save money and God knows we need to in this day and age, but we also have to look at the intangibles – if it’s really worth it. It wasn’t,” she said. “We needed to learn to listen to people a lot more carefully. Although we possibly could have saved money doing it, the fact that we would have lost so much more in good will and considering our long-term employees, we would have lost so much from them –their credibility, their love for their kids. Believe you me, they love those kids; they believe in those schools.”
McLaughlin said the board is still dealing with fallout from the issue.
“I think there’s still some residual concern that comes up every time we talk about saving money. There’s always that little grim cloud, no matter how much we reassure people,” she said.
Last year when the district had problems getting school bus drivers, the system used an outside transportation company to provide temporary help, which prompted some “murmuring,” and some extra reassurances from the board, McLaughlin said.
“We worked really hard with the bus drivers themselves – and assured them that there was a time limit on this and that as soon as we got bus drivers hired that we would not use the outsource people. And they believed us.”