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


May 12th, 2010
2:13 pm

Jaded, I’m not sure I have the exact answer but I’m certain many things could be done from a disciplinary perspective.

Just to throw something out – they could be taken away, just like the students phones, if they are caught using them in the classroom.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge cell phone user but there is a time and a place. And in the classroom is not the appropriate place IMO. Or during surgery, I don’t think I’d want my surgeon stopping to text while I’m laying open on the table.

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
2:15 pm

How about, bring your cell phone to school but don’t get caught using it – especially in the classroom? Like I said above, you can’t get a signal in our school. The teachers go into the media room during their free period and make any phone calls they need to on a land line.


May 12th, 2010
2:16 pm

@Jaded, no, I don’t expect that but, the teachers aren’t even making an attempt to hide them or refrain from using them. It would not take long or much effort from an adminstration to put a serious dent in cell phone use by teachers in the classroom. I think most people would be shocked and appalled to know how much cell phone use is happening by teachers while they are “teaching” our kids.


May 12th, 2010
2:19 pm

Jeff, good thing that the teachers that you are talking about don’t work in the same building that I do. Have a coworerk that sits at the desk behind mine and every time I look, she’s texting someone. Then if you say something to the big boss about it, she says, I’m surr it’s important. DUH..


May 12th, 2010
2:25 pm

In the 12 years my daughter was educated in Gwinnett County schools, NOT ONCE did I see a personal fridge in ANY classroom!!!! None in the Elementary, None that I saw in the Middle School, and I never saw one in the High School. Could be one or two may have had a fridge, but not every teacher, not every classroom.

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
2:28 pm

Talking about inappropriate times to use a cell phone – One time I had to get a drug test and physical for employment and the “doctor” (I use that term loosely) takes a phone call during the exam. He keeps jawing away on his cell, while continuing the physical. I guess he was confirming dates for a condo rental in Destin – he even told me to “cough” while he was making his plans.


May 12th, 2010
2:31 pm

Sour grapes? Not at all. She left me and the kids, and it was like getting out of jail from a very long sentence. All of a sudden, we could keep the house clean. Money didn’t simply disappear for no reason. Years later, I’m now married to a woman who cares more about her family than her job. A teacher that will put their family first is a rare thing, in my experience.

Microwaves in offices and cube farms, sure sounds suboptimal… sorry you can’t get away for lunch, but I’d imagine that with the smell that multiple microwaves simultaneously heating lunches must inspire a lot of your co-workers to be sorry you can’t get away for lunch, too!

Now, come on. You can take a little kidding.


May 12th, 2010
2:39 pm

When I taught 10-15 years ago in two different school systems, NO ONE had a mini fridge -in either school system. One was a South Dekalb high school and the other was a hot-shotty East Cobb high school. I was in trailers at both places, and either you remembered to bring a water bottle full of water, or you went thirsty until you had some type of break. Not the greatest, but this is an effective way of eliminating hundreds of thousands of dollars of expense! There’s just no good argument against it.


May 12th, 2010
2:40 pm

If it will work, even if it only saves half the money they say it will, then ban them. Teachers, bring a cooler or make a lunch that doesn’t require cooling & heating. People used to steal stuff out of our company refrigerator all the time but I learned as long as you put it in an ‘individualized’ bag or container, people wouldn’t take it (i.e. if you leave a can of Coke on the shelf, kiss it goodbye. But if you put it in a hot pink lunch sack with your name on it, no one was going to spend time to rummage through it). Also once they made it a policy that the refigerators would be emptied EVERY Friday, people learned not to leave stuff. People complained about forgetting stuff the first couple of weeks but less of us complain about how nasty the frige is anymore.

I’m with the person who questions the vending machines. Unless the vending machines are making the school enough money to make up for the use of electricity and more, then those should go to.

And I don’t kow Gwinnett’s policy on lights at the schools at night & on the weekends but the public schools in my county are like a beacon after hours. Why they can’t just use motion sensors is beyond me. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the heat and A/C runs all weekend too.

Roswell Jeff

May 12th, 2010
2:42 pm

Maybe they could make a competition out of it. Whoever is “teacher of the year”, not only gets their own special parking place but – they get to keep a mini-fridge in their room.


May 12th, 2010
2:46 pm

Also -I think LeeH1 is a troll who is trying to flame up the board. Either that or he/she is dumber than a rock and should be dropped into one of our “rougher” high schools a week before Christmas break or the end of the school year and forced to “teach/monitor” a full day’s class load for a week. It would be great reality t.v. to see if Lee actually survived! Let’s see how professional Lee is by day 3. Let’s see Lee realize that if nothing else, people who don’t go completely ballistic and kill the kids are REALLY professional -on par with attorneys, psychiatrists and CEOs. Let’s watch Lee try to balance the actual classroom with all of the paperwork and administrative B.S. he gets to handle -and let’s not forget -since Lee is new -he/she will need to coach or sponsor at least one extra-curricular activity. Have fun Lee! It’s sooooooooo easy being a teacher, I’m sure even a moron like yourself could do it!

Well, JATL...

May 12th, 2010
3:03 pm

…with your attitude, I certainly hope you are not still teaching, for your sake and the sake of the kids. If you are still teaching, how do you have so much time, based on your 2:46pm post, to rant several times a day if you are so busy?


May 12th, 2010
3:07 pm

@Roswell Jeff — see! That’s just wrong! And gross. (But I did giggle at your story!)

Didn’t you want to say something? You were in a hard place though with it being a physical for a job though…ugh!


May 12th, 2010
3:08 pm

OMG! I can not believe the nerve of some people here. Teachers aren’t allowed to have lunch because they could stand to lose a few pounds! They aren’t professionals because they’ve had the audacity to organize for better working conditions? (BTW, for anyone who is STILL misguided, GA is a right to work state. THERE ARE NO TEACHER UNIONS IN GA!!!) Look, pull the fridges, I don’ have one, so I don’t care. I do have a microwave, because I get 25 minutes for lunch, and that starts the minute my kids start going through the line and ends usually a couple of minutes early since I have to go help them clean up their tables, so I heat my food up in my microwave so I don’t have to wait as long to eat. Plus, I used my microwave to pop popcorn for my kids as a reward and to heat up water to make hot chocolate the day before winter break while we were watching The Polar Express. But, whatever, I’m not a professional, so why should I care?


May 12th, 2010
3:22 pm

@Well, JATL, as I stated in a previous post, I taught 10-15 years ago. Hell, no I’m not still teaching! If you think I’m exaggerating or snarky though -you should do the same as I suggested for Lee (you probably ARE Lee). It’s one of the toughest jobs there is -period. No, I actually work in a calm and peaceful environment and get paid much more than what I was making as a teacher, which is actually sad, because the work I do now will certainly not change anyone’s life. However, when I go home I’m done, and I don’t have to put up with a bunch of kids whose parents don’t care unless you fail them, and then they’re all over the place going nuts because their kid should deserve to skip class, skip school, never turn anything in and PASS. Funny how they’re NEVER available when you’re trying to contact them 3-4 times per week while this is going on…. But I digress -no I don’t teach anymore, but don’t DARE pass judgment until you’ve done it in tough schools for several years!


May 12th, 2010
3:46 pm

Has anyone ever seen the episode of Two and a Half Men, when Charlie goes in for a Vasectomy, and the doctor is on the phone with his wife who’s in labor……hysterical!!!!


May 12th, 2010
4:36 pm

JJ, I love Two and a Half Men – watch it every chance I get. I just have to squelch the opinion I have
of Charlie Sheen being a liberal, pompous a–!


May 12th, 2010
4:53 pm might be tht, but he could eat crackers in my bed anytime..


May 12th, 2010
4:55 pm

wow..sorry for all the typos and misspellings in my post today..


May 12th, 2010
5:09 pm

@MomsRule – I don’t know about others, but my phone is turned off and in my desk as soon as I get to school. I might check it during planning. I turn it on just before I walk out the door. It does not interrupt my classes.


May 12th, 2010
5:42 pm

Last year my sister-in-law, forsyth co teacher, gave us an aquarium. She had it in her classroom for the kids but all of that was cut out last year for them. No add’l electricy used in classrooms. I thought it was harsh re: the aquarium but a mini-fridge – really not necessary. There is nothing wrong with having a cooler. Pampered much?????


May 12th, 2010
6:01 pm

I have my cell phone with me everyday, but, I would wager my entire meager paycheck that any of my students have ever seen me use it! It is off and away during my classes. Lately, the only time I HAVE used it during the day was to return a parent’s phone call when the department phone was already in use.

FYI – by law, we cannot take up students’ phones anymore, because the school becomes liable if the phone gets lost or stolen while in our custody. So, they would not be lawfully allowed to take up teachers’ phones either.


May 12th, 2010
6:53 pm

I don’t have a problem with keeping the mini fridges or microwaves. The time for lunch in our elementary school is 25 minutes from the time the class enters until the time they leave. It is barely enough time to get the kids seated, use the restroom, possibly check one’s mailbox and eat. The break room does not have a refrigerator nor is there room for one. In a large school such as ours, teachers don’t even see the break room but before and after school. The just can’t get there.

One teacher who is expecting a child in the fall wondered what she’s supposed to do with her breast milk if she pumps during the day? Good question. Does she store her breast milk along with everyone’s lunch? Can a cooler possibly keep the milk at the correct temperature? Just curious.


May 12th, 2010
7:02 pm

Just back from lunch with Michelle and we had fun discussing others on the blog. Am I the only one who has the nerve to actually invite folks to meet, from this blog? It really has been fun to put the face with the name and make new friends too! Thanks Michelle for spending a few hours with me…we’ll do it again! DB, you are up next!

@ Jeff…thanks for your 2:10 comment. I have learned a few things today myself and several posts gave me something to think about. My son is brilliant with numbers and has a photogenic memory but does not have a poker face…we can tell exactly what is going on. We used to tease him and call him “pointy eyebrows” as they would rare up when he was thinking ( too hard) about something.


May 12th, 2010
8:28 pm

I work in Gwinnett and would gladly give up my fridge, microwave, and lamps if it meant I didn’t have 3 furlough days next year. But you know what? We’re still getting furloughed!


May 12th, 2010
9:11 pm

As a teacher who just lost her job, I am all for any cost-cutting measures that truly cut costs and don’t affect the students or classroom size. The reason many teachers opt for personal refigerators is that there is often no central location where a refrigerator or coffee maker is available. Also, we middle school teachers are with children all day (even at lunch), and have planning periods filled with meetings, so a visit to a ceentral location might be difficult.
I do think that schools should make an effort, though, to cut costs and offer just basic fridge space and a coffee maker.


May 12th, 2010
10:08 pm

LOL at “photogenic memory”!

another teacher

May 12th, 2010
11:13 pm

just 3 furlough days – try 10 – and that’s after the fridges are cut LOL! We have 5 student and 5 staff holidays in the 10/11 calendar – I love how Funny Sonny can stand and say no furloughs for educators this year – but cuts the QBE funding where districts have no choice but release staff and reduce work days for those that survived the cuts – got to wonder how he sleeps at night – but he doesn’t care – just go fishing – that will fix the problem! Have to wait until next year for the license free day!


May 13th, 2010
7:07 am

ooops…Sally…my bad…you are right and I am wrong! Photographic….LOL!


May 13th, 2010
9:15 am

My mini-refrigerator allows me to quickly grab my lunch and eat in the 28 minutes I am alloted for lunch. I also grade papers, answer parent emails, and prepare lessons during my lunch time. I understand budget cuts and this will be yet another that cuts a little more into my daily productivity.


May 13th, 2010
9:16 am

What is so hard about bringing your food in an insulated lunch bag with and ice-pack? Never mind convenience, and saving the school’s money, how about just doing that to not use up so much energy, burn so much coal and cause so much pollution. That would be a good lesson for the kids.


May 13th, 2010
3:24 pm

This is dumb. These teachers are college educated folks willing to make only $35,000 to make a difference in society. Taking away the little things, like fridges, disenfranchises folks and may be the straw that breaks the camels back in terms of leaving for a different profession. $700,000 is a small price to pay for something changes the attitudes of county teachers.


May 14th, 2010
7:49 pm

Ours were “taken away”, along with anything else that uses electricity (like microwaves) at the beginning of the year. Teachers offered to pay the cost themselves. We have to use 2 common, nasty microwaves. No administrator has figured that using 2 micros 40 times a day is the same as using 10 micros 4 times a day, especially if you unplug the micro when not in use. Teachers are captive audiences and cannot go out for warm food.

I was allowed to keep my minifridge because my dr. wrote a note saying I need it for my diabetes food/access. Who knows about next year.


May 14th, 2010
7:50 pm

Obviously my blood sugar is low, as I cannot accurately multiply.


May 14th, 2010
7:56 pm

Not to mention waiting in line for 18 of your 23 lunch minutes to get a shot at one of the two microwaves. 3 minutes to warm up, then 2 minutes to eat. (Did I get the math right that time?)


May 16th, 2010
7:45 am

Think of middle school and high school. Think of interior rooms. Think of movies or ppt…think of the lights are out. Now, there are no lamps. Um…I don’t think there will be any more movies in windowless rooms!


May 18th, 2010
3:19 pm

I am a teacher who had to get rid of the fridge last year. Paid for it with my own money over 20 years ago. Well, there are refrigerators in the teacher’s “lounge” for teachers to use to put their own lunches, etc. in. Both refrigerators need to go to the dump. They do not keep the food cool, and they are not kept clean. I have gotten used to this — I bring my food with ice blocks to keep it cool.

So, it’s not the end of my world. There are many times per week when I could use it for my students — which was the initial reason for purchasing the fridge in the first place. I started out as a kindergarten teacher. Lots of items went into the fridge for my class. I can think of other ways to cut back on a school budget though. (hint: most school systems are top heavy — a few cuts there could keep the botulism out of teacher’s food)


June 25th, 2010
6:12 pm

I am a teacher, and I have a mini-fridge. Yes, I will give it up for the greater good of saving money or pay a fee to keep it, but the idea that it is a luxury is humorous. Comments that state we should only have a fridge in our breakroom are reasonable. Problem is we don’t have a breakroom. It was taken over as a classroom years ago. There is an ancient, grungy fridge in a bookroom on my floor, but it is always stuffed by old forgotten leftovers. In addition, I have to drink a great deal of water due to injuring my vocal cords many years ago. I used to store water in the community fridge. Bottles would disappear and an entire case disappeared between one afternoon and the next morning. I went out and bought a mini-fridge the next day. The community fridge shared by a few administrators in the front office is always pristine – less people and an administrative assistant to keep it in order. The administrators who have offices scattered throughout the building also have mini-fridges in their offices. Will they be taken out as well? Somehow I doubt it. In the end a mini-fridge is a small thing, why get bothered by it? Well our days are made up of small concessions that demoralize us and treat us like children rather than professionals. Frankly it’s hard to find a few minutes between classes and monitoring the halls to go to the bathroom. Now I guess I will add running to the community fridge to that narrow window of time as well.