New cost-cutting plan for Gwinnett County: No more personal fridges for teachers!

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and we were so proud that our class collected enough money to buy our teacher a mini-fridge for her classroom next year.

I bought the fridge last Thursday with the plan to give our teacher the present Friday afternoon. I stopped by the school Friday morning around 9 a.m. to ask our head custodian for help lifting the fridge that afternoon. She said I don’t think you want to give it to her. She won’t be allowed to use it next year.

Jaw drops! Mouth agape! What!! But this is our class present! What do you mean she can’t use it next year.

The county sent out a memo earlier that week announcing to help save money it will not allow teachers to have personal refrigerators in their rooms next year.

How much money could that possibly save you might ask?

Well actually quite a bit according to Jorge Quintana, director of media relations for Gwinnett County.

The county estimates it can save $698,000 a year by eliminating the personal fridges and removing personal desk/floor lamps. (I would fight the desk lamps – sometimes you need extra reading light!)

From Quintana:

“Energy audits conducted by utility providers identified the removal of personal desk/floor lamps and compact refrigerators as no-cost initiatives that would have immediate and significant savings. By asking local schools for their participation in removing these items, the district could see a savings of an estimated $698,000 a year. To help accommodate the needs of employees and students, the school system is suggesting full-sized refrigerators to be located on the school campus, in centralized locations such as teacher workrooms.

In addition, the district also is asking employees to turn off lights and computers and unplug all nonessential electronic equipment at the end of each day.

These energy initiatives will help to raise awareness, reduce consumption, save money, and protect the environment.”

As much as I hate for teachers to lose the convenience of the mini-fridges, it seems to be a cut that will affect students the least. If it helps prevent the county from needing extra furlough days or increasing classroom sizes, it’s probably a smart cut to make.

Now I know some of the teachers use it in their curriculum. Our kindergarten class had a cooking center every week and our third-grade class has used the class fridge for storing food for their solar cooking tests.

I guess they will just have to walk further to the central fridges. (I’ve only seen one of the two fridges our school has now and they are always packed! They will definitely need more fridges.)

A friend of mine questions couldn’t the teachers or the class offer to pay the difference so they could keep their fridges? Is that accounting nightmare worth the result of a cold Diet Coke mid-day? Will the class lose teaching time going to the big centrally located fridges?

So what do you think: Should teachers be forced to give up their personal fridges and desk lamps? (Again I would fight that desk lamp! Those don’t run all night like the fridges.) Is that loss of convenience worth a $698,000 savings?

Does your teacher have a fridge in class? What does she use it for? Would she be mad to lose it?

Is this a smart solution or a bad one? What would your solution be?

138 comments Add your comment

Jeff

May 12th, 2010
6:50 am

I think it’s a bad idea. It’s not going to make a significant impact. We’re going to have the exact same discussions next year (or next month) and now you have made life more inconvenient for an already stressed labor force. Given how much money we spend per student and the amount of tax increases over the years that were ear-marked for education, we need an accounting of where that money has been spent.

Interested Participant

May 12th, 2010
7:17 am

They are idiots. Our district just has an appliance surcharge that teachers have deducted out of their paycheck every month (or they can pay the entire year at one time). I think our Supt. went to Lowes or somewhere and figured a ball park figure on what it costs to operate one of those mini fridges per month (and microwaves too) and if we want to use them, then we have to pay the surcharge. Most do, some don’t. For my fridge it’s $5.00 per month. I think it’s a good plan. Teachers were happy to pay to keep their convenience appliances and the district gets money to cover the extra cost of electricity.

G.R.I.T.S.

May 12th, 2010
7:22 am

i think anything that can save money and also be eco-friendly at the same time is a good thing. maybe if they look deper they can find more costs such as this to eliminate rather than eliminating the teachers and courses. honestly i havent given costs much attention until lately, but i am not for furloughs and doing away with certain courses in order to save money…so maybe they can find more hidden costs that dont affect the teachers and students as harshly….

fred

May 12th, 2010
7:23 am

Jeff, I disagree, It will and does make a big difference to a schools electricity and heating bill. We implemented this last year and our electricity bills went down by about 4% across the district. Now i am sure that that is not the sole reason, but still lets think about this for a moment, if each teacher has an appliance that in their room times how many classrooms in a school times how many schools in a district. pretty soon you are talking real money. and lets not forget the amount of heat that fridges are constantly putting out. all for the convenience of a cold lunch (that many teachers will heat up in the microwave and a cold soda. please get yourself a good insulated lunch bag with a blue ice cold pack. and as for the time that the teachers are using the fridge for the curriculum, really how much time is that? a week or two at the most. the food could be kept in a big cooler during that time. This is the type of change that all of us are looking for, it saves a lot of money, does not affect student performance, teacher performance and has the added bonus of being earth friendly.

motherjanegoose

May 12th, 2010
7:55 am

T…what a bummer, as that was a thoughtful gift!

I can certainly see the savings potential but am reminded that a community fridge presents it’s own set of problems. You are in charge of your own fridge and it’s cleanliness and contents.

I remember, many times, being involved in a community fridge and having a CLEAN IT OUT DAY.
Teachers were asked to take their things by noon on a certain day or they would be tossed. No whining about your favorite tupperware bowl being gone.

I think the $5 charge makes sense to me and it was recommended by a teacher, I presume.
As usual, each of us will have an opinion but those who are actually in the classroom now should be able to tell us another story. I remove myself from this pool, as I am not in my own classroom and could never tote a fridge along with me every day….LOL.

Cheri

May 12th, 2010
8:01 am

Is this really an issue? Dozens of teachers are losing their jobs daily, and you are complaining about a MINI FRIDGE?!?! I would MUCH rather not have a mini fridge in my room than not have a room at all! Maybe you could take back the fridge and use the money to buy your child’s teacher a gift certificate to the Schoolbox since we have lost our yearly “Sonny Money” stipend.

Your child’s teacher can walk to the teachers’ workroom and use the community fridge. It’s not a national crisis.

1sus

May 12th, 2010
8:04 am

My child’s teacher has a frig in the classroom. I’ve never seen any personal stuff in there – only things for the classroom. Seems a shame for them to have to do away with them, but I’m all for saving money so that other cuts do not have to be made that would REALLY affect the students.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
8:06 am

Cheri – the point is that the county is looking for any way to cut their budget without more furlough days, without increasing class size, without hurting students’ ability to learn — they are going to save almost 3/4 of a million dollars just by saying no fridges — so I’m asking is that good creative accounting or just angering the teachers -

Hey, Theresa...

May 12th, 2010
8:13 am

…you can figure out the savings all by yourself – just look on the tag on the ‘fridge you bought and find the “cost per kilowat hour” – then multiply that times 24 hours a day, then that number by however many teachers there are in Gwinnett County (though probably not all of them have mini-fridges in their classrooms).

That will give you a good indication of how much money is really being saved vs your belief that this may just be “creative accounting”.

irisheyes

May 12th, 2010
8:17 am

It is what it is. Unfortunately, we only have one refrigerator for the entire school, so it will fill up quickly. (And it’s just a regular size fridge. Think the bargain model at Lowe’s.) I’m just curious if GCPS will change their policy when the economy improves, or if it will stay this way forever.

BTW, I’m at a GCPS school, and we haven’t heard that yet. Curious when it will come down to us.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
8:25 am

I didn’t mean creative as in making it up =- I meant creative as in looking for ways to cut that don’t hurt the learning. my bad for choosing that word — I definitely am NOT saying their numbers are wrong — I think their numbers are right!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
8:26 am

I’m pretty sure our school past along the memo to our teachers because our teacher knew when I was recounting our sad gift story to her.

Kathy

May 12th, 2010
8:28 am

This issue is not new. I taught at 3 different schools in Gwinnett and my husband works for the school system so I have witnessed this problem first hand. This is not just about the mini fridge. Coffee pots, microwaves and lamps, along with the mini fridges are in the majority of classrooms in Gwinnett. With over 100 schools, that is a lot of classrooms, thus a lot of extra appliances. Not only is it costing a lot of money to run those appliances, it is a fire hazard to have that much plugged into the extension cords the teachers are using to plug these things in. The schools have been told that each grade level can have a set of appliances (coffee pot, fridge, microwave) but it is taking time to enforce this policy. Again, this is not a new issue. Your child’s teacher probably already knew that she could not have a fridge in her classroom. The school district has been trying for years to get all the extra appliances out of classrooms. I have a friend that used to work at a school where the principal would go around occasionally to police the appliances. Teachers used to hide them under their desks.

What I can’t believe is that with all of the budget cuts (every GCPS budget as been cut by 7.5%, including instructional materials), the class used money to buy a refrigerator! Why not buy her materials that can be used in the classroom?!?!? Books for the teachers classroom library, paper, pencils, crayons…..not something for her own personal use.

Cheri

May 12th, 2010
8:36 am

It’s a great idea. Little by little does the trick! Take my mini fridge rights. Take my desk lamp (the lights in my room are quite bright). A 3/4 of a million dollars here, 1/4 of a million dollars there… Compared to being jobless, I’ll take doing without a few extra luxuries.

LeeH1

May 12th, 2010
8:46 am

Teachers aren’t professionals and should be treated like other hourly wage and blue collar workers. The idea that elementary school teaching is a profession, or a vocation, belongs with the 1950s view of life in a white community, with June Cleaver and Donna Reed.

The politicians have used teachers as footballs, and teachers have formed unions and picketed for perks, and neither side has maintained any dignity.

So, yeah, tell the teachers what to do, and they’ll do like they are told. Move on.

FCM

May 12th, 2010
8:53 am

Why wouldn’t they just use the fridge in the breakroom? How many people in Corp America have a fridge at their desk/office? I have worked for several senior folks and none of them had one.

We need teachers in class rooms. IF the $600K+ will let more teachers stay in employed get rid of the fridge. This is a no brainer.

What is interesting is that a new study shows that Co-Sleeping with a child is dangerous. (No this is not related to the topic but we have discussed co-sleeping several times).

Bob

May 12th, 2010
8:57 am

Not much savings in the whole scope of things. Think about the teacher who works through lunch or stays after school, they need to be able to store a little food to help them through the day.

Dan

May 12th, 2010
9:00 am

A fridge does use a lot of elec, but the energy surcharge isn’t a bad idea. But I do have a question when teaching ecology do they turn the fridge off? Or do they buy offsetting credits like Al Gore so they can preach to others as they go on using all the energy they like

lwa

May 12th, 2010
9:04 am

Well… if we are cutting back in our own homes, why not expect the school system to do the same.

When we were in Kansas, there was a book fee that every student had to pay… EVERY Student. Now, I was a little taken aback. We couldn’t keep the books, but we had to pay a yearly fee. In addition to paying for books, if you lived within 2.5 miles of the school and a bus was approved for your neighborhood, the parents had to pay. Intersting concept!!!!

Mike

May 12th, 2010
9:09 am

Teachers are professionals. I don’t hear teachers complaining about the rule in my school in Gwinnett. They understand that this move will help Gwinnett keep more teachers in the classroom which doesn’t just benefit the teacher with the job but benefits the students within our community.

fed up in GA

May 12th, 2010
9:13 am

“director of media relations for Gwinnett County” – fire this guy and how much can we save?????

Mike

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

@fed up in GA

You know Alvin must look good in the media. While he runs Gwinnett into the ground, Alvin must get good press.

JATL

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

Are you kidding? Since when did teachers start having mini-fridges? This is a GREAT idea! Many, many schools -in fact every one I’ve been in or taught in -had the fridge in the teacher’s lounge, and that was it! I applaud Gwinnett for finding some other way to help save money than more furlough days or shortchanging students in some manner.

As for reading lamps -again, are you kidding? The fluorescent lights in most classrooms are blindingly bright. If you can’t read with that light, then you may be legally blind. I’m still somewhat in shock over the mini-fridges. I have quite a few friends who are elementary teachers, and not one of them has ever had a mini fridge! Looking at possible pre-ks for my son this year took me to 4 different area elementary schools -and there wasn’t ONE mini fridge to be seen in any of the classrooms. Ridiculous!

Beeen-O

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

We didn’t have any mini-fridges when I went to school. We buried out lunches in the snow outside to keep them cold. Of course, in North Dakota, it snowed throughout the entire school year.

Interesting

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

I wonder if they will do this in Dekalb. My wife has a tiny fridge in her classroom. If they do, I guess I can use it as a beer fridge for the basement.

So, the school system saves and I get a beer fridge. Win-Win. Oh yeah, the wife… well, she’ll survive.

JATL

May 12th, 2010
9:19 am

Well, my other post isn’t showing up -perhaps because I think mini fridges in classrooms are one of the dumber things I’ve ever heard. Good for Gwinnett for saving money in a way that doesn’t shortchange kids! I know many teachers -most elementary -and I’ve never heard of mini fridges. No one had one when I taught. I just visited 4 area elementary schools in the past month and there wasn’t a mini fridge to be seen.

If you can’t see to read in the blindingly bright fluorescent light that’s in school classrooms, you are probably legally blind.

Meme

May 12th, 2010
9:25 am

I never had room in my classroom for a mini-fridge. Wow. Our school system supplies each grade level here in the middle school with a regular sized fridge and a microwave. We are very lucky.

oldteacher

May 12th, 2010
9:28 am

Does that mean we will take out the vending machines in the cafeteria, gym, teacher lounges, etc. ????? If we started school earlier we would only have to serve breakfast and could dismiss school early enough that kids could wait until they get home for lunch. Would that save any money? Administrators issued blackberries, cell phones, other electronic devices????

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
9:28 am

I don’t think the refrigerators in the classroom is dumb, but I do agree in this time of budget crisis, it’s a good idea to get rid of them. In our school, I know that the PreK and K’s have them… I don’t know about the other grades. Our teacher stores perishable snacks for the kids in hers.

The refrig cycles on and off all day long – sometimes empty. The microwave is used for a couple of minutes a day – it doesn’t matter if there is one in every classroom or just one in the teacher’s lounge. The same amount of electricity will be used regardless.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
9:31 am

Hey FCM — we can hit the cosleeping — maybe tomorrow — one of our regulars sent me a note on that last night — we had talked about it before so i wasn’t sure if we would want to hit again but we can –

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
9:32 am

jatl – i will look for it

Same boat, different county

May 12th, 2010
9:33 am

The same thing happened in Clayton schools effective April 1. No more mini-fridges, personal fans/heaters, lamps, and any other appliances unnecessary for work. Those who are caught with the now-banned items will face disciplinary action.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
9:36 am

jatl — found it — I guess I worry about the reading lamps because I am almost legally blind so I do like light when I’m reading.

The Cynical White Boy

May 12th, 2010
9:38 am

Hee hee hee, the reason for personal fridges ain’t convenience.

The real reason for personal fridges is human nature. Somebody always steals somebody’s food.

In the office where I work, if I want to get rid of something, I put it in the central kitchen fridge. Works every time.

future educator

May 12th, 2010
9:41 am

I wonder what the salary is for the Energy Star Coordinator position? Perhaps, we can cut costs by eliminating some positions to benefit the children’s education?

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
9:41 am

If they really wanted to save a ton of cash on their electricity bill, they would install energy management systems in the older schools.

motherjanegoose

May 12th, 2010
9:42 am

@ old teacher) …or we could make school a 24 hour project and serve 3 meals a day, plus a suitable living environment…LOL.

This way, the money would go to the school and they could serve nutritious/affordable meals and the parents ( who are sitting at home watching TV or on their cell phones and munching on chips all day…who plan on running through the fast food line with their kids for dinner or tossing them a frozen pizza) would not get food stamps or any aid for their kids. They would have to get a job and perhaps pay taxes that might keep our schools moving.

I am not talking about folks who lost their jobs…just folks who never worked at all and do not plan to.

David S

May 12th, 2010
9:49 am

Maybe Ed Begly Jr. can work up a bicycle-powered fridge that the students can take turns pedaling to power?

Plenty of places to cut besides this, but in a politically-operated system, the right decisions will never be made.

Strike another one up for private solutions to government problems.

Jesupjacket

May 12th, 2010
9:49 am

The personal fridges and lights have not been taken off yet. However, we have had a renewed emphasis on lights and other electronics (including personal lights) being turned off last year and it supposedly saved our system over $100,000 last year. We have 9 schools so just imagine how much the larger metro systems could save.

John S

May 12th, 2010
9:52 am

I think an appliance surcharge would make more sense.My wife has a fridge in her room (not in Gwinnett County). Given that she barely has 20 minutes for lunch after walking the kids to the cafeteria, and of course does not have the ability that most of us have to go out to lunch, she needs easy access to her lunch. At least she still gets a lunch break. One of our teacher friends in Gwinnett County is now forced to eat lunch with her students in the cafeteria every day.

DB

May 12th, 2010
9:57 am

I guess I just don’t understand the whole “fridge in the room” thing — I mean, are the teachers really drinking and eating snacks in front of the students? Isn’t that a little rude?

Guess it’s time to pull out the good ol’ Playmate cooler.

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
10:00 am

Yeah DB – the teachers do that all day long… lol.

Wounded Warrior

May 12th, 2010
10:06 am

Herny County did away with this this year. The elementary school teachers used theirs mainly for their own lunches and extra drinks. One of the students in my child’s 5th grade class last year, kept stealing the cokes and opening them and the principal did nothing about it. This teacher quit, and is now teaching the 2d grade this year.

Catholic School Teacher

May 12th, 2010
10:09 am

Boy, am I lucky! I don’t have to worry about any of these silly budget cutting regulations – as long as the folks keep putting money in the basket on Sunday (and they are VERY generous), we can have all the equipment we need. Our students are not lacking for anything. I feel sorry for the public school kids.

John K

May 12th, 2010
10:10 am

Sure, why not? It’s already difficult enough in the short amount of time available for teachers to grab a bite. Then add in increased class sizes due to layoffs, it’d make it even easier for them to eat!

Anne B

May 12th, 2010
10:15 am

Ban or charge for Fridges and Microwaves.
I work for a publicly held company and we have centrally located Refrigerators and Microwaves. We have also installed motion sensor for overhead lighting and changed the heating and air settings all for that extra amount of energy savings. In corporate business it is imperative that we save money wherever we can.
We HAVE to make a profit or we will fold.
Why should government schools be any different? We need to make publicly funded schools conscience of energy consumption and change attitudes of entitlement to personal appliances.
After all don’t we all teach our children to conserve energy? Where better to start

Old Timer

May 12th, 2010
10:16 am

I am amazed that any district still allows personal fridges. I moved here from another state 3 years ago. Teachers there had to give up all personal appliances about 10 years ago. That is truly one cost savings that has absolutely no effect on students’ education.

Cottmj

May 12th, 2010
10:18 am

What I am concerned about is letting LeeH1 get away with saying teaching is not PROFESSIONAL. Give me a break. Let’s see them try to JUST get certified, let alone teach. What is wrong with this picture, people?

Will

May 12th, 2010
10:19 am

teresa just wrote a blog a few weeks ago where she claimed she was so green that she limited her beef purchases because she was concerned with the amount of methane gas being produced by the cattle, but, now she is willing to add yet another energy sucking appliance to the environment? Let them walk 100 feet to the teachers lounge to get their Dr. Pepper and frozen Reeses!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2010
10:21 am

David S — the student powered bicycle refrigerators will also help with childhood obesity. You are really killing a lot of birds with that one stone!!