Custodian shortages are affecting school districts across the nation, and certainly across the Coastal Bend.
But according to one CCISD custodian, the district can't hold on to its custodial staff because they said employees who have been with the district for several years are not being paid as much as newer hires.
"Recently they hired (custodians) who are making a $2 difference from those who have been there 2(-plus) years," they said via text message. "When most found out, they decided to either quit or are doing less."
The employee wishes to remain anonymous. They did not disclose their hourly wage.
"Most are making at least $10 an hour," they said. "We had more (work) added to our already expanding (workloads) because of (COVID-19)."
Carroll High School Principal Robert Arredondo said the school is deep-cleaned at night.
CCISD currently has two job postings for a custodian. The starting pay is $10.75 an hour -- the minimum rate for that job, stated CCISD Director of Communications Leanne Libby in an email -- and refers potential employees to the district's salary schedule handbook for more information.
When the rate was changed, Libby said, "all custodian pay was adjusted accordingly." Raises, she said, are provided through the district's general fund.
The district said in a statement on Monday that it employs 303 custodians across its campuses, and is seeking 50 more.
"It's not fair (that) HR is recruiting others and paying them much more," the custodian said.
However, Libby said Tuesday that no custodians have cited pay as a reason for leaving.
Libby said CCISD's high schools have one daytime and two mid-shift custodians, and depending on the school's size, it could currently have anywhere from seven to 11 evening custodians. Those evening staffing numbers can range from 9-16 when the district is fully staffed.
The district's payroll budget has decreased over the last several years, according to the CCISD website. Between the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school years, the payroll budget has fallen by $333,846. The website does not reflect a budget book for the current school year.
The custodian said the elementary school at which they work was in need of custodians until very recently.
"We had custodian replacement issues until (Monday) because no one wants to work at the school because of the (workload)," they said.
Libby said CCISD custodians are only required to work the 8-hour shift for which they are scheduled.
"Many custodians are choosing to work additional hours for overtime pay," she said. "No employee is required to work beyond their scheduled hours."
In response to the pictures aired on Monday, Arredondo stated via email that the school's custodial staff works on a rotation, and the restrooms are cleaned throughout the day.
He said the custodians did, however, begin noticing increasingly messy restrooms last week.
"On Thursday of last week, (Asst. Principal Jonathan) Garison held a virtual Zoom assembly reinforcing expectations of cleanliness and safety in restrooms on campus," he said. "We are happy to report that since then, our custodial staff has shared that cleanliness is improving."
Although the custodian we communicated with said they get support from school principals and staff, they have considered quitting because they feel underappreciated.
"We were given a $20 gift card and cold pork sandwiches over the summer from HR . . . for what we did during COVID-19," they said. "And (they) rarely even acknowledge . . . the hard work we put in every day.
But they said that at the root of the problem, in their mind, is pay.
"If the (district) gave us a (working wage)," they said. "Perhaps the district could keep hard working employees who are trying to (make) a living."