The school board severely criticized a janitorial service company that cleans Paterson schools for its alleged poor performance.
Board members initially rejected the nearly $7.1 million contract for New York City-based Pritchard Industries in a 6-2 vote.
“They’re just not a good company that delivers on the regular cleanliness of our buildings, and now we put in new guidelines to sanitize and do all these different things. I’m just not comfortable with them delivering,” said school board member Emanuel Capers in a virtual meeting of the Board of Education last Tuesday. “They failed us for years.”
Pritchard Industries officials did not respond to a call for comment last Wednesday.
Longtime board member Jonathan Hodges said he was “concerned” about whether the company would be able to properly clean and disinfect, an extra step needed because of the coronavirus pandemic, school buildings.
“I’m really worried about having to impose more stringent requirements on this company when they weren’t able to maintain reasonable performance on a less intensive regiment,” said Hodges.
Other school board members had similar concerns.
Facilities director Neil Mapp said district officials met with the company’s management about the shortcomings and future expectations.
“We laid out some of our expectations relative to the new Covid-19 mitigation policies and procedures we’re putting in place,” said Mapp. He said previously the company’s staff were not adequately managed by the district. He said three sector supervisors will be “vigilant” about their performance.
Hodges, Capers, Manny Martinez, Joel Ramirez, Nakima Redmon, and Corey Teague voted against the contract while Vincent Arrington and Kenneth Simmons voted in favor.
“We need Pritchard,” said business administrator Richard Matthews after the rejection. He said the company’s performance is in line with the contract specifications. “It was a very low-level standard of cleanliness that’s in the contract.”
Matthews said the district scaled back on cleanliness when it outlined the specification for that contract years ago because of budget cuts.
Matthews said the district does not have a “plan B.”
“We hire people in the district to get jobs not to tell us a plan B,” said Teague. “I really don’t want to hear that. You’re getting paid enough. Go back and find plan B.”
Capers suggested bringing cleaning in-house. He said the district should hire staff to clean the schools. Matthews and Simmons said that would cost the district as much as $4 million more per year.
District’s general counsel Khalifah Shabazz told board members she will send a “strong” letter to put the company “on notice” about its performance.
School board members reconsidered the company’s 2020-21 school year contract. Martinez, Redmon, and Teague changed their votes, allowing the contract to pass in a 5-2 vote.
Capers and Hodges voted against the contract.
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