Nashua BOE rejects privatization plan

Vote supports discontinuing pursuit of this option for district

NASHUA – The Nashua Board of Education has rejected privatization, ending two and a half years of discussion about the topic and protecting more than 100 union service-based jobs within the district.

The measure to discontinue pursuing privatization was passed by a 6-to-1 vote at Monday night’s lengthy meeting, with board member Elizabeth Van Twuyver being the only “no.” She was against ending exploration of this option for the school district, an option some believe would reduce costs associated with payroll if certain positions were outsourced to non-union workers.

New member Gloria Timmons, who voiced during the recent election that she was strongly against privatization, was not present for the vote in which the board took affirmative action to stop such a move.

“There is no support for (privatization) on this board,” said Dotty Oden, board president, though Twuyver’s dissenting vote indicated otherwise.

There was little discussion about the issue at Monday’s meeting, and the vote was taken at the request of counsel.

The Board’s decision likely was no surprise to many, as the issue of privatization was a polarizing one in the November election. The four newly elected members, Timmons, Raymond Guarino, Heather Raymond and incumbent Oden, all were openly opposed.

The conversation first began in September 2015, when the Board decided not to renew custodial contracts and instead pursue privatization. This option is the outsourcing of work to private companies as a cost-cutting measure, an endeavor that would have caused 101 union members to lose their jobs. Opposition from the community was strong, with many people calling and writing in to the Board to express their disapproval.

“Privatization has proven time and time again to be a failure on so many levels,” said Jim Durkin, director of Legislation, Political Action and Communication for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93.

He referenced Chelmsford School District, which moved forward with privatization, only to backpedal not long after, because of reported crimes, Durkin said.

In contrast, many of Nashua’s custodians are parents with students in the school district, said Adam Marcoux, Nashua Teachers Union president. He illustrated this point in a statement supporting custodians a few months ago.

The union’s last contract expired in June 2016, and parties had been involved in mediation for some time.

Oden said in a phone interview Tuesday that negotiations resumed last week.

“We are delighted with the vote,” Durkin said, adding it puts the district on the right path.

“They heard the very loud voices of parents, teachers, students and community. It is a testament not only the excellent work that some of these people have done for decades, but also a testament of the power of their union.”

Last fall, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire sided with the Nashua School District in an appeal from the union that the district committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to bargain with the Nashua Custodial/Janitorial Staff concerning the district’s plan to move toward privatization at the end of the term of the “collective bargaining agreement between the parties.”

Doris Hohensee, a board member who opposed privatization from the get-go after her she was sworn-in to the board in 2016, said Monday night she hoped the new vote will help contract negotiations move along.

Durkin agreed.

“We’re looking forward to negotiation a new contract that reflects the hard work of these men and women,” he said. “We hope it will

be resolved as quickly as possible.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.