Monday, May 19, 2003

Pay Dirt

Union officals are not the only well-paid school educrats in NYC.

It pays to be a school custodian. Just ask Martin Fogarty. Fogarty pulled down $177,195 last year making sure Public School 125 in Morningside Heights stayed neat and tidy - while doing stints at a half-dozen other schools.That made him the highest-paid school custodian last year, earning more than anyone in the city Education Department except Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and first Deputy Diana Lam.

Fogarty was among scores of custodians who were able to take home hefty paychecks thanks to a sweetheart contract that lets members of Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers collect two salaries - doing two jobs at once, often within a normal nine-hour day. The contract allows custodians to earn a second salary for taking care of a neighboring school that lacks a custodian of its own. The more schools a custodian can juggle, the more money he makes.

In fact the New York Daily News lists the top ten paid custodians with the lowest salary a whopping $162,929. No wonder the bathrooms are filthy. And apparently, Joel Klein and crew recognize the privatization opportunity here:

This summer, officials plan to seek private contractors to take over custodial duties at a cluster of 40 or more schools. Josephine Santiago, principal of PS 169 in Brooklyn, is one beneficiary of privatization. Her Sunset Park school had a revolving door of subs for the three years it lacked a permanent custodian. "It was a nightmare," Santiago said. "Some temporary custodians were great, some were terrible, but no one stayed and nothing got done." Life got better when a private company, Johnsons Controls, took over custodial services last June. The company hired a member of PS 169's custodial crew as its new building manager. "The school sparkles. But it's not the company, it's the man they hired," Santiago said. "This is his school. He has pride in it. He's not going anywhere."

Santiago sounds nice, but she's wrong. It has everything to do with the company. The school sparkles because the company will lose the contract if it doesn't.

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