TEMPERANCE — The jobs of Bedford Public Schools' custodians appear to be safe, at least for the time being.
The Bedford Board of Education is expected to approve a three-year contract with the district's 22 janitors during its regular meeting Thursday. The contract will be retroactive to July 1 and expire June 30, 2016.
It means the 22 janitors will not fall victim to the district's deficit-elimination plan, on file with the Michigan Department of Education. The plan brings the school system out of its operating deficit by the end of the 2016-17 school year. It includes $475,000 in savings through cuts in janitorial costs, which could include outsourcing janitorial work to a private company.
The new contract freezes custodial pay at about $16 an hour and cuts overtime by shifting some janitors to a Tuesday-Saturday schedule. Total savings come to $357,000, mostly through attrition, including six retirements, said Howard Schwager, director of human resources and labor relations.
The custodians are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2071.
The contract "is a step in the right direction," said Randy Alcock, a janitor at Monroe Road Elementary School and member of the negotiating team. "We have faith in the school board and the new superintendent, Mark Kleinhans."
He added that the custodians remained somewhat on edge over their future employment "with the deficit-elimination plan hanging over our heads."
Local 2071 President Lynette Donbrosky said negotiations began in February.
"It was a long, drawn out process. We're pretty happy that we have not had to give up a whole lot," she said. "Most of us are from here, we graduated from here, and have kids in school here. It's a family thing. A lot of us were scared."
Ms. Donbrosky said three to five more retirements are expected in the next few years.
The school board approved putting the contract on its agenda at a committee-of-the-whole meeting last week. In a special meeting earlier, it also approved hiring new teachers. Monroe Road and Jackman Road elementaries will share a new "exploratory" teacher who will teach enrichment classes like art, music, and physical education, said Edward Manuszak, assistant superintendent for instruction and student services. The annual cost, including benefits, will be $96,838, according to Sharon Ramirez, the district's chief financial officer.
Another part-time "exploratory" teacher will teach two 45-minute periods per day at Jackman Road Elementary at a cost of $28,083.
Also approved was a part-time computer teacher at the junior high, who will teach three periods a day at a cost of $47,735.