A cost-cutting measure by the Waxahachie ISD board relating to janitorial services has drawn the ire of the constituency it serves - its students.

As of late Friday afternoon, a petition drive at the high school had gathered several hundred signatures - and more are expected.

“It was easy to get signatures on the petition,” said Leslie Moon, choir president and a student council member for the junior class. “All we had to do was mention the name ‘Chano’ and everybody was in. The teachers feel the same way.”

Moon noted how the high school student population honored custodian Chano Ramirez with a special recognition day last year as appreciation for what he has brought to the campus.

“He knows our names. He knows what activities you’re in. He asks you how you’re doing. He takes note of what’s going on,” said Moon, praising Ramirez for the moral example he set for students.

If Ramirez found money left on cafeteria trays, he did his best to return it to its rightful owner, she said, noting Ramirez also would dig into his own pockets to find lunch money for a student who didn’t have any.

“We have close relationships with all of our custodians,” she said. “We’re passionate about what’s happening because it’s not right.”

Moon and the other students intend to request an opportunity to meet with school board members to protest their decision to privatize custodial services.

The board next meets at 6 p.m. Monday, May 21, for a special meeting at Global High School. There is no open forum on the agenda, however, which would preclude the students speaking during the meeting.

In an interview with the Daily Light, the students indicated they may try to meet with board members individually prior to the meeting. They also intend to present the administration with copies of the completed petition.

“We, the students of Waxahachie High School, believe it is unfair practice to proceed in terminating our custodial staff and possibly rehiring them at lower wages and benefits,” the petition reads. “Our custodians are committed to us and our learning in an environment of friendliness and camaraderie.

“Many times throughout the year, they stop us in the hallway asking how we are doing in school and challenging us to do our best,” the petition reads. “They are as much a part of our educational foundation as our school staff, teachers or administrators.

“We are proud to be students at Waxahachie High School and embarrassed that our school board would consider robbing us of people who have supported us and been our friends for many years. Please, for the sake of future students reconsider this very poor and unethical decision.”

Superintendent Tom Collins said not all of the district’s 60 custodians are being laid off by the decision to turn custodial services over to Fort Worth-based Faulk Company, which serves other districts in a similar manner.

Thirteen employees are being retained. Each of those was vested in the district’s retirement system with at least 10 years of service.

Monday night, the district approved a three-year contract with Faulk. Of the 13 employees retained, the district will not refill their positions as they retire or leave the district’s employ. Instead, the company will add additional contract positions as those separations occur.

Collins said the district will recommend that Faulk rehire the custodians who are being laid off and acknowledged it was possible their employment with the company would be at a lower rate of pay.

The district has considered the privatization of custodial services as an effort to cut expenses since about February.

Although the total amount of the contract will see some fluctuation as campuses are added or employees leave, the per-square-foot price of $1.098 is firm for the three-year term of the contract, executive director of support services Lynn Marshall said, noting opt-out provisions have been included if needed.

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com