Erich Murray

From left, Aramark Georgia district manager Erich Murray, Paulding schools general manager Thomas Hill, and company human resource manager Simone Lackey listen to county school board members’ questions during a board meeting in 2017. 

A private company will clean Paulding’s schools for another year after board members narrowly approved renewal of a contract.

Paulding County School Board recently voted 4-3 to accept Superintendent Brian Otott's recommendation to renew a $6.4 million annual contract with Aramark Inc. for custodial and light maintenance services in the schools and school district administrative and service buildings.

The renewed contract is for services from July 1 through June 30, 2019. Chairman Nick Chester and board members Theresa Lyons, Kim Curl and Glen Albright voted for renewal, while Kim Cobb, Jeff Fuller and Sammy McClure voted against it.

Cobb, who voted against renewal, said she hoped to see the quality of service improve after board members heard results of surveys showing principals believed the company was generally keeping their schools clean.

Albright said he had concerns about service levels, as well, and implied the board was nearing a decision about continuing to employ the company.

“Before this contract comes up for renewal (again), we have to decide,” he said.

Board members voted after hearing parent Rita Cabe say she did not believe a private company’s workers could be “invested” in the schools in the same way district employees were.

“I’m asking you to return the care of our schools to people who truly care about our schools,” Cabe said.

The board voted to hire Aramark in April 2015 in an effort to lower personnel costs. Otott has said the district saw enough savings in such areas as employee benefits to hire additional teachers.

About 90 workers were affected and Aramark hired most of them after the county eliminated their positions, officials have said.

However, board member Kim Cobb has complained the company had not kept its crew fully staffed as it promised in 2015. She also has said she routinely received reports about equipment and supply shortages and schools not being properly cleaned.

Parent Heather Tatum told board members Feb. 27 she did not believe principals were being truthful about the service. She later said in an email her daughter was opting not to use the bathroom at Paulding County High School because of its poor condition during the school day.

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