Custodial vendor blamed for Southern's issues - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Custodial vendor blamed for Southern's issues

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - The Health and Safety Task Force and Education Suruhanu Dominic Terlaje nearly shut down Southern High School today after the team found a number of unsanitary conditions at the Santa Rita campus.  Consequently, DOE officials are blaming the filth on the school's custodial services vendor.

The Home of the Dolphins received a "C" rating today with 32 demerits that mostly had to do with deep cleaning with the water fountains, restrooms and sinks.  Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood, DOE Facilities and Maintenance Manager Billy Cruz, Terlaje and Deputy Superintendent of Finance Taling Taitano for the round of inspections joined Principal James Petite.  The latter said, "There's a lot more that needs to be done and I articulate this to Advance Management, Inc. on a constant basis. Every time I sign one of their invoices, I write a note on things that need to get done, things that need to be improved."

Southern's campus has been plagued with maintenance issues that range from broken air conditioning units in the classrooms to leaks in the boys locker rooms to unsanitary restrooms.  But Dr. Underwood says the school will work with its custodian to address these problems; however the custodial vendor may have to be swapped out in the future.

"This is a hundred percent contractual for custodial services," she said, "so we need to revisit that because granted we have hundreds of students going through the school every hour when it's open, but there are certain things that we would expect."

Still, the superintendent says that while the school has come a long way, it has a long road ahead.  "My hope is we get to the point in which we are basically maintaining rather than reacting in an emergency mode," she said.

Dr. Underwood was able to confirm that Southern High will be receiving $8 million dollars in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding, which will be used for capital improvement projects on campus that would include fixing the school's fine arts theater and upgrading its science labs, to name a few. But Dr. Underwood said one thing she is encouraged by is the recent accreditation reports given a couple of weeks ago, adding, "The curriculum is improved and now working to make sure to meet the standards of the facilities."

Meanwhile, Cruz says the citations were also given for a lack of 180 self-closing devices and overgrown vegetation. Cruz says he will sit down with Advance Management next week in the hopes that they will shape-up or ship-out.

KUAM News has learned from Advance Management Director of Business Development Jim McFerran that maintenance crews from his company were already able to address some of the problems cited, including mildew found in Building 8000.  McFerran says that anything remaining, including a more thorough cleaning of the school's gym will be corrected this evening, and added that the air conditioning units do not fall under their contract.

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