Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta District custodian staffing levels fall short of industry guidelines

Trustees set to approve $1.5 million to hire an outside cleaning firm Tuesday

Custodians working for the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) have experienced a dramatic increase in their workloads since in-person instruction began last semester. While the colleges have informed The Citizen that they plan to hire one to two more custodians per campus in the near future, the staffing levels would still be below industry benchmarks for what is considered an acceptable level. 

34 custodians to cover 1.7 million square feet

The four colleges and the district offices represent a total of nearly 1.7 million square feet of space requiring cleaning, according to district records. PCCD currently employs 34 full-time custodians with plans to hire four more, according to a survey of the college presidents and facility directors conducted by The Citizen. This represents one custodian for every 43,967 square feet if the planned hires are included.  

The Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA), a standards-setting trade organization, has established that each school custodian should be responsible for no more than 25,000 square feet of space. In order to meet that standard, the district would need to employ a total of 67 custodians, or 29 more than are currently planned. 

Response from the colleges

In an email to The Citizen, Amy Marshall, the Director of Facilities and College Operations at Laney College, provided her perspective on the APPA guidelines. 

“The APPA guidelines for custodians per square foot are more nuanced than straight square footage because different spaces require different cleaning. At Laney, we try to optimize our resources with scheduling and more modern cleaning equipment and systems,” Marshall explained. 

Laney College currently has 10 full time custodians and two substitutes. The college is planning to hire two additional custodians soon, according to Marshall. With 555,710 square feet of space to be cleaned, Laney College is the largest college in the district. This equates to 46,309 square feet per custodian, significantly higher than the 25,000 square foot industry benchmark. 

David Johnson, the President of Merritt College, in an email to The Citizen stated that the school “strive[s] to ensure that we have adequate custodial coverage” but must work within “budget constraints.” As a result, Johnson wrote, Merritt College is “doing our best to manage competing fiscal exigencies” and is “endeavoring to make appropriate decisions to address each and every need (including an increase in the custodial staff)”.   

Merritt College, with 461,971 square feet of space and eight custodians (plus plans to hire one more) has the highest number of square feet per custodian at 51,330. 

Angélica Garcia, President of Berkeley City College (BCC) provided The Citizen with this statement on the importance of custodians on her campus: 

“The custodial services team is essential to ensuring that the BCC facilities are healthy, safe, and conducive for learning. Our custodial colleagues have been caring for the facilities, even during the pandemic, and certainly have been instrumental with the increased number of students, faculty, and classified professionals on campus.” 

According to Garcia, BCC currently has five custodians, with plans to hire one more. With a total square footage of 191,064 on the campus, the average square feet per custodian would be 31,844 if and when a sixth custodian is hired. This is still above the 25,000 benchmark figure, but the lowest for any of the PCCD facilities. 

Acting President Diana Bajrami of College of Alameda (CoA) informed The Citizen that her school currently has eight full-time custodians (down from nine before the pandemic). CoA has no plans to add to the custodial staff at this time, according to Bajrami. The CoA custodial staff is not responsible for cleaning the aviation school and the CoA science annex, according to Bajrami. That job is handled by custodians from the district office. 

Bajrami pointed out that several buildings on the CoA campus (including A, C, and D) are either not being used at all or only partially used, therefore requiring a reduced level of custodial services. She also explained that these services are not provided to the childcare center.   

The final three Peralta custodians are assigned to the district office, according to Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations. 

The Peralta custodians are represented by the Intl. Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers, Local 39. The Citizen reached out to Abel Fuaau, a business representative at IUOE, but he had no comment on the situation at Peralta.

Custodian per square foot by campus and district offices | Sources:
Graphic: David Rowe. Square footage: 2022 Peralta district wide cleaning RFP. Number of custodians; confirmed by college presidents or facilities managers. District office custodians also responsible for the College of Alameda aviation school and science annex. Benchmark: from APPA.

New district contract for outside cleaning firm

A $1.5 million contract between the district and Ray & Associates, an Antioch-based cleaning services provider, calls for the firm to “provide floor cleaning, waxing, shampooing, exterior wall power washing and exterior glazing (glass) cleaning” for the four Peralta colleges and the district offices. 

The “budget string” on the contract states that Ray & Associates will be partially paid with institutional Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) funds.

Ray & Associates has worked with PCCD since 2017 according to documents posted on the BoardDocs site. Over that period, the cleaning firm has received progressively larger contracts starting with a $49,000 assignment in 2017 to deep clean the classrooms and restrooms at Laney College. In 2020, Ray & Associates was awarded a $700,115 district wide contract to clean and disinfect all four Peralta colleges. 

Reviews of the past services provided to Peralta by Ray & Associates have been mixed. Evelyn Lord, head librarian at Laney College told The Citizen “it’s the cleanest the library has been in years.”  

Biology professor Leslie Blackie, however, found dust on the counters of the Laney biology lab and was told by district officials that the cleaning service did not want to enter the science labs “due to concerns with live specimens and chemicals on the counters.”

For the new cleaning project, the district conducted two rounds of “invitations for bids.” The first took place in June 2022 and the second in October 2022. Ray & Associates was not the low bidder in either round, but was ultimately selected due to issues with the bids from ABM Industries and UA Mobile Wash, according to Interim Vice Chancellor Atheria Smith in a memo to the Board of Trustees for its April 11 meeting. 

The district’s bid tabulation form shows that UA Mobile Wash underbid Ray & Associates by $221,095 but neglected to respond to four addendums. The public bid results for the cleaning contract state that Ray & Associates is what the district deems a “Small Local Business Enterprise” and meets district requirements, which includes the need for the business to be headquartered within district boundaries. Ray & Associates, however, is headquartered in Contra Costa County, like UA Mobile Wash. 

The Citizen contacted Ulisses Rodriguez, the owner of UA Mobile Wash in Richmond and a former student at Laney, who said he had not yet been advised by the district that his firm was not selected for the cleaning contract. Rodriguez said he was not able to post the $10,000 bond required by the district since he is a small business with limited resources. 

The district is paying Raymond & Associates to clean all the buildings on the College of Alameda campus, even the ones Acting President Bajrami says are either not being used or only partially used. 

Ray Oiyemhonlan, the owner of Ray & Associates, operates the business out of his home in Antioch. His LinkedIn profile shows that he is currently employed as the operations manager of Aramark Corporation – a food service, facilities, and uniform services provider. A search of the business license database for the city of Antioch on April 7 showed that the license for Ray & Associates Cleaning System carried a delinquent status. A representative for the city told The Citizen that Oiyemhonlan had come in earlier that day to pay the fee to reactivate his business license. The Citizen could find no website or social media presence for the company. 

The Citizen reached out to Oiyemhonlan for comment but did not hear back from him in time for inclusion in this article. The Citizen obtained an April 10 email sent by IUOE Local 39’s Fuaau to Ronald McKinley, PCCD’s Interim Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, regarding the Ray & Associates contract. In that email, Fuaau says Local 39 conversations with the district regarding “the lack of staffing and support for the janitorial and engineering department” have been “disregarded with a flippant shrug” and the union was “led to believe the district simply does not have the money.”  

“If this were the case,” Fuaau asks, “how does the Board of Trustees justify voting to outsource our work to Ray & Associates to the tune of $1.5 million?”

The Citizen contacted both McKinley and district spokesperson Johnson for a response to Fuaau’s email. Neither had a comment.

 

About the Contributor
David Rowe, Associate Editor
After a 40 year career in advertising, David is considering journalism as his “second act” and preparing himself for that new profession by taking classes at Laney. During his days in advertising, Rowe headed up the media departments for a number of leading ad agencies in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In this capacity, he was responsible for the planning and placement of tens of millions of dollars of paid media. A high point of his career was placing Intel’s first Super Bowl TV ad in 1997. Rowe has a lifelong interest in journalism dating back to high school in San Jose where he started an underground newspaper called, appropriately enough, The Del Mar Free Press. The school administration threatened to suspend him, so Rowe, with the help of his attorney father, sued the school district in Federal Court and won and injunction. Ultimately, the case was decided in his favor and California state law regarding the rights of high school students was re-written as a result. Rowe is a political junkie who enjoys watching all the Sunday morning news programs and is actively involved in the Joe Biden presidential campaign this year.
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