CUSTODIANS Fear Mold Fallout

Tuesday, May 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

News on Six reporter Tami Marler broke the story about potentially hazardous mold in Green Country. Here is the latest update:

Twenty-two custodians at Okmulgee schools are concerned about their jobs. Some fear they are being targeted because of the mold problem that brought so much negative publicity.

Harold Turner has been a custodian for Okmulgee schools for about 20 years. Harold Turner, Okmulgee Custodian: "Mold been there. It's been in the building since I've been working there."

He's just one of more than 20 janitorial employees who wonder if their jobs are being targeted because of mold problems that cropped up at the High School when the school year started.

Harold Turner, Okmulgee Custodian: "It puts a spot on us; we didn't do our jobs. Like the Superintendent would come in and look up at the ceiling and say, oh Harold, you all didn't do such a good job there this summer."

Turner and his co-workers got a letter from Superintendent Doctor Sheryl Flowers - saying the district was considering contracting with an outside company for janitorial services.

Dr. Flowers says mold has nothing to do with the decision.

Dr. Sheryl Flowers, Superintendent: "We have to be good stewards of taxpayers money and look at all of the areas that we possibly can that make us more frugal, and...if we can do that." She also says she's received bids that could save the district as much as $60,000 a year. "I don't see that it would really be saving that much money, and even if it does cost more, this is there people. This is the people of their community."

Jo Shepherd spoke at a school board meeting - supporting the 22 custodians who would be out of work.

Jo Shepherd, Okmulgee Superintendent "If you go with this, you're saying...retirement."

Flowers says jobs don't necessarily have to be filled from workers from outside the community. Dr. Sheryl Flowers, Superintendent: "They are still going to come from this region. I hardly think that someone would drive down from Tulsa to take on custodial services work."

But district employees have jobs now - they don't trust that they'll have them later.

Nathaniel, Okmulgee Custodian "She is not concerned with what's right and what's wrong, she's concerned about what she wants."

For now 22 custodians' jobs are safe. Okmulgee school officials tabled the contract decision until a later date. Watch for updates on this developing story.