Meeting Minutes July 17, 2020

NYC School Support Services, Inc.
Meeting of the Corporation’s Board
July 17, 2020, 9:00 a.m.
via Zoom Teleconference



The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Chairperson Lauren Siciliano, who noted for the record that a quorum was present to conduct business.

In attendance were:

Lauren Siciliano, NYCSSS Board Chairperson
Nicolas Storellicastro, NYCSSS Board Treasurer
Jonathan Botwinick
Naila Rosario
Tom Shcherbenko

Also attending:

Stephen Brennan, NYCSSS Executive Director
Brooke Jenkins-Lewis, NYCSSS CFO
Nathalia Berger, NYCSSS HR Director
Anna Taruschio, NYCSSS Chief-of-Staff and Counsel
Joseph Iacono, NYCSSS Operations Analyst
Dan Fisler, NYCSSS IT Manager
John Shea, CEO, Division of School Facilities, DOE
Phil Napolitano, Division of School Facilities, DOE
John Cruz, Division of School Facilities, DOE
Mark David, Division of School Facilities, DOE

  1. Introduction

Chairperson Siciliano opened the meeting by noting that there was a quorum to conduct business and appointed Ms. Taruschio as interim Secretary for the meeting. She proceeded to review the meeting agenda, which included: the approval of the January 24, 2020 meeting minutes; a management update and financial report from NYCSSS staff; a resolution to enter into a contract with a new payroll vendor; and the consideration of any new business.

  1. Approval of Meeting Minutes from January 24, 2020

Chairperson Siciliano made a motion to review the minutes from the January 24, 2020 meeting, and the motion was seconded. Chairperson Siciliano noted that no questions were raised with respect to the minutes and made a motion for approval, which was seconded.

The Board unanimously approved the minutes.

III.       Management Update

Mr. Brennan began his update by thanking all NYCSSS employees for their very hard work in cleaning, sanitizing, and preparing schools, REC Centers and DOE Feeding Centers and making a safe environment for both children and staff.

He noted that NYCSSS had accomplished many things during this period, including renewal of NYCSSS’ contract with the Department of Education for a term of eight years with 2 one-year renewal options, and the extension of Local 32BJ’s collective bargaining agreement for one year through June 2021. He noted that new contract negotiations with Local 32BJ will commence in February 2021 and that the contract with Local 94 runs through December 2022.

He proceeded to update the Board on developments relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and began by noting that the Corporation had been prepared for the pandemic by having a disaster recovery plan ready to go well in advance such that, when the pandemic occurred, the Corporation was able to move operations to localized areas, in addition to leveraging existing capabilities through MS 365 Team meetings and thus being able to stay in close contact.

Mr. Brennan next gave the Board an update on the Corporation’s search for a new payroll provider. He stated that at the last Board meeting the Corporation had presented various existing options to the Board; NYCSSS has been coordinating closely with the DOE on the changeover timeline in preparation for a September 2020 transfer date to the new provider. He noted for the Board however, that – given the evolving situation with COVID – the September 2020 date was fluid and might get pushed back. He concluded that the Corporation would wait for the DOE to let the Corporation know how to move forward.

With respect to the Finance Team, Mr. Brennan noted it had transitioned to a WFH protocol and that despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic, not one payroll had been missed and business flow had continued uninterrupted. He noted that the biggest challenges on the payroll level had been the “NY State on Pause” Executive Order as well as Matilda’s Law Executive Order. He stated that the payroll team had been working very hard to get these items done.

Mr. Brennan stated that the Corporation was following the COVID leave policy and that thus far 894 employees had gone out on leave and that the Corporation’s HR Department had been on the front line of handling these requests, on the order of about 60-75 requests per day, which have now begun to taper off.

Mr. Brennan noted that seasonal hiring had ended in March given that PETs, the DOE’s security verification system, has been suspended. The Corporation has thus been utilizing existing bench personnel as fill-ins from different schools to REC Centers and feeding centers, which has reduced overhead.

Turning to Labor Relations, Mr. Brennan noted that grievances had ceased but that NYCSSS has been developing and testing an online grievance platform, called Discord. The Corporation has worked closely with Local 32BJ and has received approval to move forward as well as showcase the platform for Local 94 and then Local 891.

With respect to other legal matters, Mr. Brennan noted that most legal activities in courts in New York State have been suspended due to the pandemic.

With respect to IT, Mr. Brennan noted that it has been the backbone for the Corporation’s work. He stated that a new work order system (Salesforce) had gone live and that the Corporation had thus eliminated the use of Nextiva while still maintaining it as a back-up. Since inception of a CRM system in March 2019, there have been 97,568 cases, 99% of which have been closed or otherwise brought to completion. Salesforce was brought online on May 31, and to date 3,650 cases have been processed through it.

Mr. Brennan then introduced Mr. Iacono to provide the Board with an update on the search for, and transition to, a new payroll provider. Mr. Iacono stated that in January at the last Board meeting the Corporation had discussed selecting EPAY Systems to replace ADP. He noted that in selecting EPAY, the Corporation had searched for a new vendor that had flexibility, an ability to grow with the Corporation, was less expensive, more cost effective, and could provide more value as well as being able to address some of the problems presented by ADP’s platform, specifically in time and labor applications, as well as accrual functionality.

He noted that back in January the Corporation had sought and received approval to negotiate and terminate its contract with ADP for an early termination fee of up to $433,670.

Since then, NYCSSS has been negotiating contractual terms with EPAY and has shared this agreement with DOE in order to incorporate any feedback. Mr. Iacono stated that the current finalized version of the contract had been presented to the Board, and includes provisions for Service Level and Service Credit provisions, as well as standard Terms & Conditions and the RFP response to ensure that EPAY is meeting obligations as promised in the RFP.

He noted in addition that ADP had been notified of the contract termination and that engagement with EPAY had begun in the form of configuration and testing, and was moving the project forward to the payroll testing phase. He noted that thus far, two parallel payrolls had been run to assess EPAY’s capability. Mr. Iacono stated he was happy to report that in the two pay cycles run thus far (with four more to go), there had been a 98% match by EPAY, which was good news.

With respect to training of Custodian Engineers as well as NYCSSS administrative staff, Mr. Iacono noted that the Corporation and EPAY had been working toward a tentative September 11, 2020 go-live date. Lastly, he noted in closing that DOE’s Finance Team (Galaxy system for budgets) had also been engaged in this testing phase to ensure that it was satisfied with the platform’s capabilities and ready to go live.

Treasurer Storellicastro asked whether there would be any visible changes from an employee’s perspective or was the transition to EPAY more of a back-office process. Mr. Iacono responded that really the only change for employees would be at the portal, but that otherwise everything would stay the same.

Chairperson Siciliano asked when the existing ADP contract was set to end and what the deadline was for discontinuation of services. Mr. Brennan answered that the contract requires 180 days’ notice, which had been given, and that approval had been granted for the additional termination fee. Chairperson Siciliano asked for confirmation that there would be no net additional costs to NYCSSS. Ms. Jenkins-Lewis responded that a September 2020 go-live date would be the most cost effective and added that if the effective date should turn out to be later, there might be additional costs but that the Corporation intended to negotiate these heavily. For example, if the go-live were to be pushed to December 2020, there might be about $200,000 of added expense. Mr. Brennan added that the net savings with EPAY were long-term and would be apparent on a fiscal year basis.

Mr. Botwinick inquired whether the possible delay in transition to the new vendor was due to capacity with so many things going on or because of schools potentially not opening by that date. Mr. Brennan responded that it was a bandwidth issue given that the Custodian Engineers are still the ones entering time for payroll and that it might prove difficult to add another layer of learning and training in addition to that and that this operational aspect was a great concern for the DOE. Mr. Botwinick then noted with approval that the Corporation is very far ahead in this process compared to where it thought it would be.

  1. Financial Update

Chairperson Siciliano then asked Ms. Jenkins-Lewis to present the Corporation’s financial update. Ms. Jenkins-Lewis began by noting that a common theme throughout her presentation was COVID. She stated that for all titles, there is a decrease in the amount of hours and costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With respect to total hours comparison for custodial helpers, Ms. Jenkins-Lewis noted a spike in hours for the first quarter of FY 2019 due to vacation replacements and schools’ opening but that toward January and February there were only spikes when snow events happened. In 2018 and 2019 there were more weather events than in the 2019-2020 winter season. Beginning in March there was another small increase in hours due to extra sanitizing at the start of the pandemic. Two hours of overtime a day were allotted for cleaning and sanitizing. After schools shut down there was a general drop in total hours due to use of employees from nearby schools for feeder sites, REC Centers, and current in-house staff.

Ms. Jenkins-Lewis turned next to the decrease in overtime noting that during the pandemic this had dropped off completely given that after-school programming and extra services had been completely shut down. With respect to headcount, she noted that this was consistent with the Corporation not using existing fill-ins or hiring additional ones because there was no need.

Treasurer Storellicastro noted that there still was some overtime and asked for an explanation of what this was attributable to. Mr. Brennen responded that this was at REC Centers and feeding centers which remain during the pandemic, and where there are tasks and projects still to be performed. Ms. Jenkins-Lewis added that if any school center was open on the weekend then it would also be automatic overtime, per the Corporation’s contracts with its unions.

Chairperson Siciliano asked why there appeared to be higher overtime in July and August versus the same period in the prior year. Ms. Jenkins-Lewis noted that this was due to the DOE’s focus during that period on lead paint and lead paint removal.

  1. Resolution to Approve Entry into Payroll Services Contract

Chairperson Siciliano noted that Mr. Iacono had previously updated the Board with respect to the proposed contract with EPAY. Mr. Iacono added that the contract is ready to be signed with the Board’s approval. Mr. Brennan added that the contract had been reviewed by the DOE and the Corporation, and that it met all the requirements as set forth in the RFP, and that the Corporation thus recommended moving forward with the contract as it was in the City’s best interest financially as well as the Corporation’s operational needs.

Treasurer Storellicastro asked whether the Board could receive the side-by-side cost analysis again that had been previously presented. Mr. Brennan responded that this will be sent out to all Board members, but confirmed that nothing has changed since the original meeting in January.

Hearing no further questions about the resolution, Chairperson Siciliano made a motion to approve the resolution for entry into a new vendor agreement with EPAY. The motion was approved and seconded:

Authorization to Enter into Payroll Services Contract

BE IT RESOLVED, that NYC School Support Services, Inc. (“NYCSSS”) is hereby authorized to enter into a new contract with EPAY SYSTEMS, INC. for the provision of payroll and personnel services to NYCSSS, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Executive Director and the Chief Financial Officer of NYCSSS and their designee(s) be and each hereby is authorized and empowered to take all actions and execute such documents as he or she may deem necessary or appropriate to effectuate these resolutions, in accordance with the bylaws of NYCSSS.

  1. New Business

Chairperson Siciliano then congratulated the Corporation on their entry into the contract and asked whether there was any new business.

Ms. Jenkins-Lewis stated that the Corporation’s annual audit would commence on July 27, virtually, and that she did not foresee any issues. She said she believed the Corporation would have a clean audit as in past years. Ms. Jenkins-Lewis added that financials would need to be approved by September 18 and that the Board should thus plan to meet again on September 17.  

Mr. Shea of the DOE stated in closing that he wished to thank everyone at the meeting on behalf of the DOE and the Chancellor, including the members of the Board, NYCSSS staff, and the Corporation’s union partners. He noted that even with the difficulties faced by everyone in the past few months, that schools are still at the center of our community in providing valuable services, including in-person instruction, feeding millions of people, working as testing sites, operating generally, and getting ready to open for school in September. Mr. Shea stated that this does not happen without the Corporation working well and characterized these achievements as a credit to everyone present as well as front line workers and he thanked everyone for their efforts.

Chairperson Siciliano added a thanks to the DOE’s Division of School Facilities, NYCSSS staff, Custodian Engineers, and NYCSSS workers who are in schools everyday helping students to access needed services. She echoed that the last few months have been very difficult for all and that she was personally very appreciative of everyone’s efforts as well. Mr. Storellicastro and Mr. Botwinick added their thanks and appreciation as well.

There being no further new business, a motion was made and approved to adjourn the meeting at approximately 10:33 a.m.

Respectfully submitted by Anna Taruschio, Interim Meeting Secretary