NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- At a New Rochelle Board of Education meeting on March 15, Arturo Rivera, a consultant working for Aramark Management Services told the board that the implementation of the SchoolDude Inventory Control System, an online inventory management system, was 95% complete. 16 months earlier, on November 5, 2014, Rivera had told the school board that the SchoolDude Inventory Control System would be fully implemented by January 24, 2015. Neither claim was true.
Many years after Aramark was required to convert from a paper to a digital inventory control system, the City School District of New Rochelle continues with a rudimentary paper-based system. The only digital aspect to the system is that Aramark consultants sometimes use text-messaging on personal phones to communicate inventory orders.
A look at toilet paper inventory management provides a glimpse into how the overall system works in practice. When a school in New Rochelle runs low on toilet paper, the Head Custodian at the school fills out a paper form. A driver comes to the school in a van, goes inside and picks up the paper form. He drives the van to City Hall and delivers the paper-form to an Aramark consultant. The Aramark consultant reviews the paper form and decides whether to approve the request for toilet paper. If the request is approved, the van driver takes the paper-form and delivers it to the Maintenance Shop at Grove Street. The toilet paper is then taken out of storage, placed in another van and delivered to the Head Custodian at the requesting school.
The first van driver, "the Pony", drives around all day making inter-building pickups and deliveries for every department at every building centered on the Central Office at City Hall. The Pony delivers mostly paper; no heavy lifting is required. The second van driver, we will call him "Mickey", specializes in making only Buildings and Grounds deliveries between every building centered on the Maintenance Shop at Grove Street. Mickey has to deliver many types of items whether they are light as a Feather or as heavy as Stone.
The paper-form is a single-side printed sheet of paper. There are no carbon copies generated when completing the form and no photo copies are kept. The sole copy of this paper-form leaves the school and no record is retained. When the requested item is delivered there is no form to match a delivery against and no signature is required to verify receipt. Items go in and out of the storage area at Grove Street and in and out of schools with no records of who, how much or when. This is the way it has always been, how it is now and how those involved would like it to remain.
Under this system, Central Office has no way of knowing how much of an item is in inventory. If a request for toilet paper is approved by Aramark, the hope is there is enough toilet paper at Grove. Usually there is toilet paper but often there is not toilet paper. For most toilet paper users, not having toilet paper once is once too many. Unlike colored paper, toilet paper is an item schools cannot afford not to have on hand, so to speak. People notice. They tend to react negatively to a toilet paper shortage.
The solution to a toilet paper shortage at a school is for Aramark to call other schools to assess their toilet paper supply. Not every Head Custodian is entirely frank about their toilet paper supply because they know if they have a good supply when that call comes in some of that supply will be redistributed elsewhere and they would then run the risk of a toilet paper shortage at their school in which case the cycle repeats itself.
So Aramark calls and calls until they find a cache of toilet paper at another school. They dispatch Mickey to that school to get the toilet paper and then on to the requesting school. As toilet paper supplies get spread thin, toilet paper shortages crop up elsewhere in the district. The number of such shortages have been increasing over the past year, sources say.
Sometimes these shortages are due to a failure to anticipate demand but other times it is a function of the way toilet paper is individually packaged by the manufacturwe, on small cardboard rolls. When an entire roll of toilet paper is unspooled, there is typically a small cardboard roll at the center. Up to 350 sheets of toilet paper may be wound tightly around this roll with the result that a so-called "roll" of toilet paper is, in fact, round from a certain angle. Often toilet paper rolls are stored on their flat side so they are less prone to movement such as tipping or rolling. Sometimes, and there can be a variety of reasons, the product is set down on the rounded side. Placing a toilet paper roll rounded-side down on any raised surface like a floor or table or the inside of a delivery van causes the product to become highly susceptible to being placed in motion by an external force acting on the roll of toilet paper such as a gust of wind, an accidental bump by a foot or elbow or a sharp turn in a van while driving. When such a force is applied, the product will of its own accord literally "roll". And once it begins to roll, depending on the angle of incline on a raised surface or the strength of the force acting upon it, the toilet paper roll can roll for an extended period of time over a great distance. The more sheets of paper wound around the cardboard center of a toilet paper roll, the greater the circumference and, by extension the greater the weight or "mass" of the toilet paper roll, reduced only by the drag co-efficient due to the friction causes by the crinkled paper used to wrap individually-packaged rolls of toilet paper.
As the net force f = MA = B - D - W = 0 with constant velocity (speed), where MA is Mass Acceleration and W = Mg is the weight of the toilet paper roll with mass M we have drag D = B - W. As the average measures of a modern roll of toilet paper is about 10 cm (3 15/16 in.) wide, it is 12 cm (4 23/32 in.) and weighs about 227 grams (8 oz.) we can use this formula to determine that 67.3 - .6339.8 = 61.0966 = 61.1 N where N > 0 (NOTE: N always has to be greater than zero or the drag co-efficient would be infinite, or in plain English, the roll of toilet paper would never stop rolling which is, of course impossible. It has to end up somewhere).
As a result of this theory, which some refer to as the "inertia phenomenon", large amounts of toilet paper rolls have simply gone missing over the years. It is, however, a theory based on a formula that was fabricated solely for illustrating an absurdist point about the implausibility of current claims about the districts inventory management system as a whole.
As noted by the celebrated Irish author Cecelia Ahern, "it doesn't matter how much, how often, or how closely you keep an eye on things because you can't control it. Sometimes things and people just go. Just like that."
In either case, a similar but most likely unrelated and equally fabricated phenomenon has often been attributed to non-round items such as garbage can liners, ladders, building materials and even power tools as many of these items have often gone missing over the years irrespective of Mass Acceleration or Drag Co-efficient with one constant, the Aramark inventory control system or lack thereof.
Related or not the impact on inventory control is identical in that there is none at all so that supplies and equipment can go missing with not just a lack of consequences but even awareness the item existed in the first place.
The broader impact on the district is that schools run out of toilet paper even when sufficient supplies have been purchased.
All of this suggests that the toilet paper rolls are not rolling randomly but rather are attracted to a central but heretofore unknown point, similar to the way in which a small moon orbits a large planet, a sort of centrifugal gravitational force.
Through pain-staking research Talk of the Sound has located three such "orbital centrifuges" in New Rochelle: one is under the stage at Davis Elementary School, a second is in a basement closet at Jefferson School and a third is at the Maintenance Shop at Grove. All manner of supplies and equipment have wound up in these three locations, and were later removed but never placed back into the inventory stream.
Ironically, over the past year, while Aramark consultants responsible for implementing the inventory management system were telling schools they were out of toilet paper, cases and cases of toilet paper were gathering dust in a back room at Grove.
The long-hidden secret stash came to light when Columbus School ran out of toilet paper. Boxes of misshapen, yellowed, water-stained toilet paper — each shoved inside a crumbling cardboard box with "shipped on" date of 2007 — were suddenly placed back in the inventory steam.
Why would Aramark provide a school with such a product? Where did it come from? Why did it take 9 years to get from Grove to Columbus? After all, it took Cristoforo Colombo and his crew about five weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the Canary Islands on Sept. 6, 1492, and reaching the island of San Salvador on Oct. 12, 1492. Grove is less than 10 blocks from Columbus School, a much shorter distance.
While unable to learn why Aramark believed it was acceptable to provide a school with deformed, stained rolls of toilet paper, Talk of the Sound knows where it came from and has a pretty good idea of why it took 9 years to travel about 9 blocks.
The photos above reveal the hidden cache of toilet paper. They speak for themselves.
As to why 9 years? That's only confusing to the person receiving delivery of toilet paper about a decade late. To the person who stored the toilet paper in 2007, it's perfectly logical. If you are stealing toilet paper (and garbage can liners and other supplies you can easily sell to bars and restaurants) you never know when you will have your chance to steal or how much you can later sell. So, you steal all that you can, when you can, and worry about selling your ill-gotten goods later.
While it is doubtful that those involved were wrestling with proper accounting methods for managing their contraband, they faced the classic FIFO v. LIFO choice. What made LIFO an easy choice for these B&G bandits is that it's easier to just shove stuff into the storage room when you steal it then pull out the stuff closest to the door when you sell it - last in, first out.
It can be difficult to take a story about stolen toilet paper seriously until you start running the numbers. Each case of 96 rolls costs the district about $50 each. These photos, taken earlier this year, depict about 50 cases or about $2,500 worth of toilet paper. This is the "left overs" of what went in and out of that room over the past 9 years, likely a cost to the district into the six figures. Start adding in items we've reported before like large sums spent on colored paint in a district that does not use colored paint, electrical supplies, lumber, lock hardware and more. And all of it unaccounted for going back many years. The losses are staggering.
We digressed into a bit of absurdist nonsense to make the point that you would have to buy some rather ludicrous claims to believe that Aramark has been unable to implement an inventory control system since their first contract in New Rochelle began in 1987. They do not want one and neither do some Buildings & Grounds employees. Hopefully, these photos of toilet paper at Grove Street help make that point.