The Rockford School Board has directed the administration to consider outsourcing its transportation and nutrition services. The district will publish an Invitation for Bids for transportation on Friday, March 3, and for nutrition services on Thursday, March 9.
This is an exploratory exercise that's been under consideration for more than a year. The School Board has tasked the administration to consider the best, most efficient way to use taxpayer dollars and still provide quality services for students. Most area school districts outsource these roles to third-party companies.
The district's decision to seek out bids is not connected to ongoing contract negotiations. Again, the idea to explore options has been in the works for more than a year. The exploration is consistent with the School Board's strategic goal No. 5: Fiscal & Operational Stewardship.
Please note: This exploratory exercise does not mean the district will enter into a third-party contract. The district will only enter into a contract if it meets the district's strategic goals and high expectations. Union leaders for transportation and nutrition services have been invited to participate in this process. The School Board has the final approval of any contract.
Please see below for a list of questions and answers for staff and the community:
Has the district outsourced any other services?
Yes. Several services are provided by third-party organizations, such as special education transportation and custodial services. The district contracted custodial services for its buildings starting in 2004. As a result, the district has saved millions of dollars.
Will employees lose their jobs?
District leaders expect current employees would apply for jobs with the third-party company. In many cases, employees will be eligible to perform the same work for the contractor. Here's how the process might work: In the event the district selects a contract for a third party to provide non-instructional services currently performed by district employees, the positions covered by the new contract will be eliminated. Employees will receive 90 days' notice prior to any lay off.
The Illinois School Code requires the new contractor to offer available positions under the contract to the district's qualified employees who lost their jobs because of the contract. Additionally, the contract must provide a benefits package for the contractor's employees which is comparable to the benefits provided to district employees who perform those services. Finally, the contract must contain nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity for all persons.
What does this mean for students, parents and staff?
We don't expect students, parents or staff would see a difference in services. If anything, services might be enhanced. The contractor would also perform the same background checks on its employees as the district does for its own employees.
Are paraprofessionals affected in this exploration to outsource?
No, the district is not exploring outsourcing paraprofessional work.
Where can I find more information?
The district will provide opportunities for employees, unions and the general public to learn about and discuss this contracting option. Consistent with the Illinois School Code, further information regarding submitted bids will be available during at least one public School Board meeting, and there will also be a public hearing before any contract is awarded.
Where can I get more information about the negotiations, offers and benefits?
The district provides a publicly-available, detailed "Negotiations Update" on its website. The district will continue to negotiate with the unions in good faith and plans on additional collective bargaining sessions with each union.
What's the timeline for this process?
The district is required to give employees 90 days' notice under the outsourcing statute prior to laying off affected employees. Tentative timeline:
- March 3, 9: A Request for Proposals (RFP) will be published to potentially outsource transportation and nutrition services.
- April 7: Bids are due to the district.
- April 28: Administration will cost out bids; information analyzed for public hearing.
- May 2: School Board will host a special meeting and public hearing on outsourcing offers/plans.
- May 9: School Board could award a contract for outsourcing transportation and nutrition services.
- May 10: Affected employees would be notified. (This date complies with the 90-day notice requirement.)