1. Gradebook

Decision on Hillsborough school custodial jobs will continue into the next school year

Privatization, centralization and the status quo are all being considered
Published May 13
Updated May 13

TAMPA - It will be months, and probably longer, before Hillsborough County’s school custodians know if their union jobs are safe.

Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, Superintendent Jeff Eakins said he is awaiting an in-house study on how to change the way roughly 1,500 custodians do their jobs to a centralized model, as an efficiency consultant recommended. The custodians, who earn an average of $24,000, now report to their principals.

Eakins said he does not expect the study to be wrapped up until late summer. After that, district leaders will consider centralization, along with keeping things as they are or hiring an outside cleaning service. Bids from cleaning services - which district leaders say they sought to get an idea on how much privatization would cost - are due on Tuesday.

“That gives the [School] Board all of the information - what does an outsourcing look like, what does centralization look like,” Eakins said. “I think that allows us, at that point in time, to have that comparison.”

A letter from Deputy Superintendent Chris Farkas went out in April to the custodians and school principals, outlining these options. It began with the sentence: “I want you to know that we are listening.”

Custodians, who are represented by the Hillsborough School Employees Federation, have been picketing at school board meetings along with supporters from the teachers’ union. The fear is that they will lose job protection and benefits if a private firm takes over. District leaders have assured the workers that, based on industry trends, about 80 percent will be offered jobs if the private firms come in. Others might qualify for different positions in the district.

Eakins acknowledged there is much to consider, and the questions are not easily answered in dollar figures. In addition to their cleaning jobs, custodians form relationships with teachers, principals and children. Supporters say they are also part of a school’s security system.

“As a principal, I had my own custodial staff and I understand exactly where principals and teachers come from when they talk about that type of service and dedication,” Eakins said.

“All those things are not lost on me. The quality of service, customer service and savings all have to look and feel right for this organization.”

If there is a change as drastic as privatization, Eakins said, he would not expect it to take effect for a year or longer. “No matter what model is selected, you’d have to take a year to know how you’re shifting the way things are,” he said.



  1. Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace has 183 more students this school year than last. Middle schools grew in enrollment this year, while elementary schools lost more than 1,200 students.  [Times | 2013]
    The 20 day count shows ever more crowding in southeast Hillsborough.
  2. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    Gov. Ron DeSantis also had set a priority of getting more youngsters ready for kindergarten.
  3. Wendell Krinn Technical High School in Pasco County opened in August 2018. The district wants to open an east-side technical high school in 2022. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    The past department head was removed over several performance concerns.
  4. Pinellas Sheriff's trainers line the back of the room as more than 100 school security officers, or "guardians,"  began training.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    "This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here,” one Florida lawmaker said.
  6. Pasco High School's state grade for 2019 remains an "incomplete," with state officials finding not enough students were tested.
    A fourth has its request rejected, leaving it with an “incomplete” mark.
  7. The USF St. Petersburg Campus, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. A view of the student center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where opposition is mounting over a plan to consolidate USF's three campuses. Some state lawmakers are opposed to parts of it that would concentrate authority over academic decisions in Tampa. CHRIS URSO   |   TIMES  |
    They say the proposal by USF president Steve Currall conflicts with a new Florida law by giving too much authority to the Tampa campus.
  9. Wreckage left behind by Hurricane Michael. News Service of Florida
    Entire school systems are still recovering from long-standing damage and dealing with the disruptive aftermath of the storm.
  10. The National Merit Scholarship program has announced the names of semifinalists for scholarships to be offered in the spring.
    These students are among the top 1 percent of high school seniors in the nation.