Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Questioning Cleanliness Some Doubt School Firm's Effectiveness

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Questioning Cleanliness Some Doubt School Firm's Effectiveness

Article excerpt

Walking through Wolfson High School, John McKean, a school

system administrator, stops to point at a wad of gum stuck to

the floor.

"I wonder if this would be there if we came back tomorrow?"

asks McKean, who oversees the school system's janitorial

services contract with a company called ServiceMaster.

Further into the walk, Wolfson Vice Principal Paige French

points out her concerns, such as keeping restrooms cleaned,

having air conditioning filters changed and keeping floors

shined. Wolfson was one of the schools that received an

unsatisfactory rating in a quality survey conducted in September

by the school system and ServiceMaster.

"Before Christmas, my opinion of this school would not have

been favorable," French said. "But now, I'd say the custodians

and ServiceMaster are making an effort. They've pulled in people

to get the job done."

Illinois-based ServiceMaster was brought on board in 1996 to

get the schools cleaner, but some say the company has had

problems getting the job done. In its first year of work,

complaints about unclean floors, carpets not vacuumed, trash not

picked up and chalkboards left dirty have been common.

But those problems didn't stop the Duval County School Board

late last year from kicking in another $421,500 to extend

ServiceMaster's contract for another year.

Now, school system officials, teachers, principals and parents

are watching and waiting to see if the company makes

improvements without increasing expenses.

"I don't think we're seeing the quality of work we need," said

Nita McKelvey, who serves on the School Advisory Council at

Andrew Jackson High School. "I once saw the teacher's staff room

filthy."

Some school system officials said ServiceMaster needed more

time to prove it could do the job.

"Improvement didn't take place as rapidly as some hoped for,

but we've given them more time to address the issues," said

interim School Superintendent Donald Van Fleet. …

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