Flint, MI— Several of Flint Community Schools’ third-party services contracts will expire at the end of June, and the Board of Education is making tough decisions about which vendors will remain in place.   

Board members spent much of the June 9 committee meeting discussing three vendors that provide critical services to staff and students.

The district’s contracts with Vartek, an IT service provider; Commercial Sanitation Management, a maintenance and custodial company; and Teachout, a company that provides safety officers to Flint schools, are set to end June 30. 

For all three contracts, the administration proposed a one-year extension during which time officials plan to submit a request for proposal and begin the bidding process, Deputy Director of Finance Ayunna Dompreh said. 

Many community members and teachers called in during public comment to show their support of Teachout.

“As a parent of special needs children, several of which who have emotional needs, the safety advocates have helped my kids immensely. It has allowed them to feel safe in their surroundings. It has allowed them to have somebody to talk to when they don’t feel that they can with the teachers or other authority figures,” Betty Nostrant said. “One saved my son’s life from another student, as the other student was banging my son’s head into a wall.” 

During the 2018-19 school year, there were 1,442 fights without injury, 61 fights with injury, 370 physical assaults without injury, 86 physical assaults with injury, and 20 dangerous weapons brought to school, Eddie Thomas, president of the Congress of Flint Schools Administrators, said. 

He also said that during the 2019-2020 school year, prior to virtual learning, the district saw 791 fights without injury, 48 fights with injury, 305 physical assaults without injury, and 19 cases of dangerous weapons. 

“The majority of these conflicts are resolved in the use of our safety advocates,” he said. “I must add that we have adults who enter our learning communities with ill will intended. They harass, intimidate students and staff and, in some cases, fight or physically assault students and staff…. Tonight, we implore you to approve this contract.” 

Terry Jones, vice president of Teachout also spoke to the board, saying he had a passion for Flint and hopes to stay with FCS. 

“We absolutely will do whatever we can do to serve this community. We started in Flint, we’ve got 500 employees throughout Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. But Flint is our home. And we’ll do anything we can,” Jones said, adding that he would be willing involve community members and leaders to protect Flint youth. 

CSM, the district’s custodial service, has been a point of conflict for many board members due to negative reports from staff and students. The board plans to take an official vote on the $2.6 million contract next week, but expressed their concerns to Mike Mills, president of CSM. 

“Before we pay them all these dollars, we need to put in their contract, hand soap in the bathrooms and tissue is mandatory. I am tired of hearing about students not being able to wash their hands with soap and not having tissues and we are spending this kind of money. Do they provide those things?” President Carol McIntosh said. 

Mills said that CSM staff are responsible for refilling soap and tissue in the bathrooms, while the district is responsible for purchasing those items. He plans to address the issue with staff, he said. 

Mills also said CSM has recently undertaken two new scopes of work with Flint schools in which they will clean and deep clean bathrooms more often. 

“I hope that includes the bathroom doors,” Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Ellis-McNeal said. “Because you can’t even touch the doors, they’re so filthy.”

Trustee Adrian Walker asked Vartek representatives what their plans were for the district’s IT infrastructure and how they will ensure network security. 

“This is a very valid concern. Flint Community Schools is not exempt and is at risk. Part of our technology optimization plan includes specifically upgrading the physical network infrastructure, and that is certainly part of resolving and mitigating that risk,” Sam Jolley, EdTech Leader at Vartek, said. “However, a large portion of that risk comes through the person aspect, the employees. So, an important part of this plan is to have anti-phishing education.” 

The board will take an official vote on the contracts at the next regular board meeting scheduled for June 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...