The Detroit Public Schools, under CEO Kenneth Burnley, have aggressively outsourced a number of operational services, beginning with maintenance and janitorial services. In January of 2002, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) signed a 10–year, $78.5 million contract with Aramark ServiceMaster Facilities Services to manage its 3,000–employee maintenance operations department.
Whether or not the Aramark contract will save the district money will be determined over time, but the move signals a wholesale change in the way school maintenance is handled in Detroit. This is the kind of outsourcing that has the best chance to save money and improve services.
Aramark claims that the contract will save DPS a substantial sum of money because the company will be able to eliminate a layer of bureaucracy by sending 43 sub–foremen back to labor positions. Aramark ServiceMaster also will revamp the district’s maintenance department to provide higher quality service. Among the planned improvements are putting a deadline on work orders (there was a backlog of 20,000) with a new software program, selling the maintenance warehouse and buying smaller, more centrally located buildings, and giving workers district vehicles stocked with supplies so they do not have to drive back to the warehouse for parts.
Similar maintenance contracts were granted by DPS in 2001 to two firms, B&L Landscaping and Torro & Braglio Landscaping, for snow removal, and Jackson Public Schools’ recent outsourcing of painting services is projected to net the district about $150,000 per year.