Contact 13 Investigates
Could outsourcing jobs in Clark County schools risk safety?
Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- It's no secret that the Clark County School District is desperately in need of money.
So much so that they're seriously considering outsourcing jobs.
But Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has learned outsourcing jobs could equate to outsourcing safety.
Custodians, landscapers, bus drivers, food service workers: all jobs potentially on the chopping block as the school district considers outsourcing to save millions.
"This is an option. It's live. It's real," explains Dr. Ken Turner, special adviser to the superintendent. But he adds that outsourcing is a last resort.
They're still bargaining with employee unions. But if they can't agree on cuts, outsourcing will be the answer.
"The District has tried very, very hard and tried to be efficient and save money every which way they can," says Sgt. Phil Gervasi. As president of the CCSD police union, he supports any effort to save, but says outsourcing is flat out dangerous.
"I cannot see bringing strangers onto property and having them intermingle with our children and our staff. Who's gonna do the background checks?"
School police currently do all the background checks on potential district employees so they know exactly who's being hired. Sgt. Gervasi says outsourcing eliminates that oversight.
"We don't have any control over these people, I mean, I'm not gonna wait for a tragedy to happen and you saved a couple of million dollars. A child's life is worth much, much more than that."
Darcy Spears: "How do you address the concerns that your own police department raises about the fact that outsourcing employees equates to outsourcing safety?"
Ken Turner: "I question the premise because I think that we all agree that the number one concern we have is children's safety."
Safety has been compromised time and again by outsourced employees already working in the school district.
"We've caught them. We've made arrests," says Gervasi.
Over the last few years, CCSD police arrested an outsourced security guard at the Cheyenne bus yard for stealing tools and equipment from school district work trucks.
A Smalley Elementary security guard was arrested for smoking crack on campus while the school was under construction.
Education Support Employees Association President John Carr will never forget what he views as a near miss.
"In a high school, a lot of our food service was Manpower and the district found out that one of them was a schizophrenic." A person who Carr says had a prior conviction for murdering two family members.
"Of course they eliminated this employee before something happened. But what if that wasn't the case?"
Carr is admittedly trying to protect his people, but his concern goes beyond lost jobs.
"I don't want to have to worry who's in the cafeteria when my grandchildren are in there. I don't want to worry is the bus driver taking them back or forth to school a convicted felon or have a DUI?"
"In any organization that's got 38,000 employees and a $2 billion-dollar budget, there are gonna be some bad guys," says Dr. Turner, adding that he believes safety won't be compromised in any way if they outsource.
"There are other places in the country which have done precisely what we're suggesting."
Places like Tennessee, where news accounts show an outsourced custodial employee was charged in 2008 with the rape of a 16-year-old student on school property.
And the same company reportedly placed a registered sex offender in a Texas middle school who was later found dead in a boys' locker room.
Everyone admits criminal activity isn't limited to outsourced employees. CCSD has certainly had its share of problems with people on the district payroll.
But critics say companies that come cheap are more likely to compromise safety. Gervasi says proper background checks are expensive.
"There's a cost factor there. Who's gonna pay for it? The company's not gonna pay for it."
Darcy Spears: "Can you look at our viewers, look all these parents in the eye and say, I promise you, I guarantee you, safety will be exactly the same if we have to outsource?"
Ken Turner: "I think that the pledge is that safety is our number one concern."
The school district says they hope to have a final answer on the outsourcing question in the next few weeks.
Contact 13 will be closely following their progress to let you know what they decide.