New Rochelle School District could save $500.000 through revamping Waste Management System

Yesterdays BOE meeting took place at Jefferson Elementary School and the presentation given by the student was very charming. I have to say, by far the most charming I have ever seen. There was a very lovely choir, first on stage and later on the balcony, with a music teacher who was so on fire and filling the room with good energy. I had goose bumps!

Then there were 1st graders that did an outstanding presentation on Polar Bears, every one on the mic, really well done. Hats off to all teachers involved.

I also very much liked the presentation by Dr Weiss about Lice (I am actually feeling itching just typing this). Dr Weiss managed to really bring to point the misguided no-nit policy that the district had been following, but fortunately has recently abandoned.

She outlined that the tell tale itching is actually an allergic reaction to the saliva of the lice and it takes 30 days for that reaction to occur, thus the child that has just been diagnosed with lice ACTUALLY had been in school, with lice for a full month already, so it makes no sense to suddenly treat this as a contagious, must-be-removed-immediately kind of situation. Instead working with the parents to get the situation under control is the new, and much less intrusive approach.

Following was a presentation about the recent Moody downgrading and the “financial stress” of the New Rochelle schools by Mr Quinn.

What I took away from this presentation was the feeling that New Rochelle schools are just plainly  victim of circumstances and that the approach is to wait and see, because there are good indicators of fewer people grieving their taxes and an upward trend on property values, and the tax revenue that comes with it.

As a pro-active person, I have trouble with a “wait and see if things will get better” kind of approach.

I had signed up to speak during the public comment session. Here are my remarks. I did not quite manage to finish before running out of time.

Dear Board,

In September of 2013 you made the decision to put Recycling  and the revamping of our Waste Management System on the agenda. We have it now end of January 2014. I would like to know, when you will be able to put this topic on the agenda.

I have the feeling, you give this a priority level equivalent to cleaning out your sock drawer and thus there is always going to be something more pressing.

However, I consider New Rochelle’s Waste Miss Management System a giant hole in our roof,  that needs immediate fixing, because it costs us every day a lot of money.

The district is spending over $700,000 on the service provider Aramark to have the service of 4 guys, I am sure we can get a better deal on the open market.

The district is spending $85.000 on a school yard, that is at night a parking spot for two trucks and during day time provides employee parking for free.

We are giving free reign to two dump trucks and tipping records show that the incident last summer where an employee was caught dumping house clean out garbage on Tax payers dime was NOT an isolated incident.

The district budgets 305,000$ for supplies such as plastic bags, plastic liners and paper towels, which means we are spending 1700$ PER DAY on just plastic bags and paper towel. That is crazy!

New Rochelle is the ONLY district in all of Westchester that picks up garbage twice per day (even on half day when there is no lunch!) The fuel alone for JUST one trip is around 20 gallons of diesel, which comes to 100$ per trip. So 200$ per day.

There are many ways to cut these costs, we just have to see them.

If you look at what is being generated in the building, we have mainly paper, packaging materials, food left overs and Styrofoam trays.

If we control what goes INTO our schools, we can control what comes OUT OF our schools, and of course the cost associated with it.

If we ditched the Styrofoam trays in favor of  compostable ones, thus following the lead of many large school districts including NYC, we would be able to engage Suburban Carting to pick up ALL of our food waste including the paper towels and the compostable trays from each school at the cost of 180$ per building per WEEK. And eventually we can feed into the Bio Gas Plant that is currently built, without incurring tipping fee.

Ultimately the school district needs to move towards washers and reusable trays and cutlery.

If the organic waste is out of the system, there is no need anymore for more then twice per week regular garbage pick up, because after source separating all packaging materials, paper, organic waste, and trays out, there is really nothing much left.

The saving on the fuel alone by cutting the twice daily trips is paying for Suburban Carting, and the saving in tipping fee, labor, truck maintenance, plastic bags is going right to the bank.

So cutting Aramark to normal positions would save us 300,000. Cutting School yard, another 85,000 in the pot, Reducing plastic bag usage drastically through revamping of Waste Management, thus reducing theft of these supplies, another 100,000, drastically reduced tipping fee, drastically reduced fuel and labor fees

I see around $500.000 of savings per year, which is 5 teaching positions, and as added benefit, the district would teach 11,000 students about source separating, thus creating life long behavioral changes in our children.

Consider the revamping of Waste Management a Capital Improvement Project, not a sock drawer organizing chore.

I propose to put together a committee to develop an action plan.


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