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Durham Schools Votes To Make Custodians School Employees Again

A sign indicates the janitor closet inside a Wake County public school.
Brian Batista
Durham Public Schools will stop outsourcing its custodial work, and bring janitorial staff in-house.

The Durham Board of Education has voted to make custodians Durham Public Schools employees once again. This means ending its contract with an outsource management company, acquiring cleaning equipment, and giving custodial staff higher pay and benefits. The change will cost DPS about $1.1 million.
Arasi Adkins, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, cautioned that the custodians would join other so-called "classified" employees -- like bus drivers -- whose salaries have been in flux for years.

“There are probably over 1,000 people, other classified staff members, that we really need to think about,” Adkins said. “If we do move to an in-house model we'll have another large group of people coming to the board asking for raises as well. I believe it's over a million dollars if we were to fully fund that, too.”

Board Chairman Mike Lee said DPS administrators will need to get an initial budget proposal to the county commission by the end of this month. He said DPS administrators will also create a timeline to bring leadership and staff in-house.

“We're really excited for the custodians,” Lee said. “I'm really happy for them. It was a good victory for them. Organizing works and this is a perfect example of Durham values.”

Subcontractors have gathered at Board of Education meetings for years, complaining of low pay and poor treatment. And principals said the schools weren't well maintained.

Lee said DPS is currently working to hire enough teachers for the fall, but that he hopes custodians can be brought in-house before 2019.

“If we cannot find out where to make up this money ourself internally, we will not have a budget probably approved until... mid-June from the county commissioners,” the district’s COO Aaron Beaulieu said. “We still have uncertainty of state budget… things that have to play in in our normal budget process.”

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