By Jan Feleppa
For those community members who are unaware of Crawford Central School District’s consideration to outsource support staff such as paraeducators, secretaries, cafeteria workers and maintenance personnel, I am writing to share some concerns and facts.
Outsourcing is a practice utilized by businesses where companies contract with other companies for certain operations in order to lower costs. In the 1990s, as businesses began to focus more on cost-saving measures, they began to outsource specific functions necessary to run a company but not related to core business. Often core competency is defined as a function that is related to customers and typically outsourcing was primarily utilized for non-core areas. However, today organizations are likely to select outsourcing primarily on the basis of cost effectiveness.
The primary advantage of outsourcing is that companies get a lower rate for the services they are looking for in hopes of saving money so they can focus on doing what’s most important to their business — making money. The downfall of outsourcing is that businesses are not sure of the quality of work that will be presented since they are relying on another company to do the work for them — and it might not be to their standards.
Clearly, public education is not a business and transposing business concepts into the education world poses some significant and serious flaws. Working from the premise that education is a business leads to poor logic, misguided decision making and poor outcomes. Public education is not about making money, which is the one universal trait of all businesses — making a profit for the business owner. The following is Crawford Central School District’s Mission Statement:
“The Crawford Central School District, a school, home and community partnership, provides an education that:
- Challenges and prepares all students to reach their academic and social potential.
- Nurtures positive student, teacher and parent interaction.
- Prepares students to become productive and contributing members of society.
- Promotes an understanding and respect for cultural and ethnic differences.
- Offers opportunities for students to reach their goals and express their creativity.
- Empowers students with a desire for lifelong learning.
Nowhere does the mission state the goal is to make money. Clearly, Crawford Central School District is not a business. So what is the advantage for CCSD to outsource if it is not to enhance the ability to make money? The reputed downfall of outsourcing is the lack of assurance regarding the quality of work that will be presented. Is lack of quality in performance what we need to ensure the above mission of CCSD?
John Gardner, secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson, stated that “The most valuable contribution the school can make is to be a community in its own right.” Schools should function as small communities that value and take pride in the function and purpose of all contributors within their community. Secretaries, maintenance personnel, paraeducators (individual and classroom aides) and cafeteria workers all significantly contribute and impact the lives of children and adolescents in our schools.
When school leaders support this concept, this attitude permeates the educational environment facilitating an intense focus on learning, allowing a culture to emerge that is founded on collaboration with positive results prevailing. All members of the school community embrace best educational practices and promote continual improvement.
The current secretaries, maintenance staff, cafeteria workers and paraeducators employed by CCSD play a very vital role in the school community. On a daily basis they demonstrate pride in their work and care about the students they serve. Collectively, they have been performing their jobs for many years with hundreds of hours of training and years of experience.
Furthermore, many are members of our community at large who work, shop, worship, pay taxes and vote in our community. They care about the students in Crawford Central School District. Crawford Central School District should be working hard to facilitate community partnerships, not destroying trust and relationships within their schools and community.
Outsourcing is a risky venture that has the potential to endanger the quality of service and will certainly weaken the educational community. Privatization puts profits ahead of students. It is big business with one motive in mind — making a profit. That is not what we need for our children or community. In an effort to achieve fiscal prudency not at the expense of children, enlightened and innovative school officials and administrators know that fostering joint labor/management initiatives to improve service delivery is more effective than contracting out.
Please let CCSD school officials and administrators know where the public stands on this issue. The next school board meeting is on June 24 at 5:30 p.m. Please come and show your support for our children and community members.
Feleppa, a Meadville resident, is a candidate for the Crawford Central School Board.