Principals at Houston County Schools and Maintenance Supervisor Dominick Curran have been pressing the issue lawn care for many months, as they haven’t been satisfied with the way the work has been performed.

Board members suggested contacting contract holder with their concerns.

“You want me to do that? Because I do that all the time,” Rehobeth High School Principal Mike Linder said. “No edging, no weed-eating, no anything – just cut.”

Other principals piped up to relay their frustrations.

Some would think the solution to the matter would be simple – change lawn care providers. But, Curran and others believe the problem is with the contract model.

State law requires that schools bid out contract services and take the lowest quote. However, there is little the system can do about quality control.

Curran offered the solution of hiring two employees internally, so that he could oversee their work. But, concern arose that the cost associated with hiring additional units with salaries and benefit packages.

Board members discussed the possibility of providing school principals a funding allocation to allow each school to hire its own lawn care provider. The idea was nixed, however, after they realized determining the appropriate amount could be difficult. Some schools have open fields that must be mowed regularly. Others have more sidewalks that require edging.

After much discussion, however, the board decided to bid the job for each school individually. That way, each lawn care outfit is subject to scrutiny to the school administration.

“We need to draw a line in the sand; if they don’t do certain things, they shouldn’t get paid,” board member Gary Cox said.

Each lawn care provider would have to have their invoices signed by school administrators to receive payment to verify that the work is completed as agreed upon.

“I feel this is probably the best route, but I do want to say we’ve got to, starting with the superintendent, hold these lawn care companies accountable,” board chairman Vince Wade said. “If they’re not cutting the grass, they get one warning, and the second one – they’re gone. It’s not that hard to cut grass. It’s a hard job, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do it.”

Dothan City Schools, likewise, had to take another bidder for their lawn care services. A recent contract holder relinquished the contract after several months.

Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at dothaneagle.com

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