“We believe they were not fulfilling all the requirements in their contract. Specifically, part of their requirements are background checks. Their background checks were not state-police-referenced,” said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director. “In our opinion, they were not doing a thorough enough job of checking the people they had in the building when they hired them.”
All city school employees are expected to submit to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check.
Dealings with B&B will end Dec. 19. B&B staff will continue to clean schools until the final day. A contract with GCA Services is currently being drawn up. Ringstaff confirmed GCA requires all potential employees to take a state-police-referenced background check.
“Obviously, when you are running a school system, as we are, it is important to know who is in your buildings. We felt [B&B] could be doing a better job of that,” Ringstaff said.
Board members agreed the safety of city students is paramount.
“Those kids need to be protected,” said Richard Shaw, board member.
Ringstaff agreed, “Our No. 1 job is protecting students, and faculty for that matter. We worry more about them than we do test scores. Test scores are important, but at the end of the day, keeping the children safe is way more important.”
Recent events have brought the school board’s attention to B&B’s background checks. A B&B employee reportedly stole several items from Blythe-Bower Elementary. Ringstaff also cited the school administration’s general need to know more about the employees’ backgrounds.
“There were not any cases of dangerous employees in the building. That would have been well-known,” Ringstaff said.
Tom Cloud, school board chair, and Ringstaff were appointed to an executive committee. The two are allowed to approve an emergency contract with a cleaning services company. A special called school board meeting will not be required for approval.
GCA Services is currently the likely choice for an emergency contract. Dawn Robinson, school board member, encouraged flexibility in the executive committee’s decision-making.
“GCA or whoever can meet our needs,” Robinson said. “You do need the flexibility to choose another company.”
According to Ringstaff, GCA is currently in 33 different school systems in Tennessee. He referred to GCA as a reputable company. Ringstaff also stated the six-month contract with B&B is not ending based on work effort.
“B&B did a good job cleaning the buildings,” Ringstaff said. “We are not releasing them from their contract because of their cleaning. We are releasing them solely based on the situation of the background checks.”
Janitorial staff work at the schools every school day in staggered increments.
“They are typically there from early in the morning to 10 or 11 at night,” said Renny Whittenbarger, supervisor of career and technical education.
Cleveland High School and Cleveland Middle School have the largest number of janitorial employees in the system. A smaller school, like Yates Primary, is likely to have a skeleton crew. A janitorial staff is used daily.