I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Difficulty in Voting "No" on Superintendent Recommendations....

As a board member, it is difficult voting against recommendations that come to us from the Superintendent.  It happens so infrequently-- that it actually gets noticed and becomes almost a scene at a meeting if every item is NOT a 5-0 Sweep.

So in 5 years on the board, I have only voted "no" maybe 8 or 9 times.  It is rare that it happens.  It is really rare that any board member votes "no" on anything recommended by the superintendent and his staff.  It just does not happen much because we work out most of our issues at workshops before the meeting.  Or we (individual board members, one on one with the superintendent) talk things through and compromise prior to things being added to an agenda or put forward for a vote.

Generally a "no" vote happens when something is politically supercharged--like the closure of a school.

For me, my no votes typically come with recommendations that I cannot come to grips with; typically it is an employee or student recommendation that will significantly impact someone's life.

Or, it might be an issue that impact's the district's right to manage their staff, like when I voted against the collective bargaining agreement becuase I did not feel the language put students first. 

Or when I voted against  superintendent Jim Paul's recommendation to give back $2Million in Merit Pay money for Great Escambia County Teachers--because the union wanted to give the money back to the state because merit pay was viewed by them as "not fair"--yeah, I voted against that.

Or, it might be a financial issue like the district wanting to raise discretionary millage tax rates on local property owners--which in the past has triggered my "no" vote on several occasions.   My feeling is that we need to live within our means like our constituents do-and the solution to money shortages cannot always be  "raise the property tax rate".

Tonight, my "no" vote was because I could not stomach the "deal" that was constructed between an employee, his union, and the district. Lawyer to lawyer, behind the scenes, without board involvement or input, this agreement was put together. 

I wanted more time becuase even up to and including the time of the meeting, I still had unanswered questions about this situation.  I asked the Superintendent to pull the item, but he said he felt like going forward despite my concerns.

The settlement deal was bad enough that I just could not bring myself to support it--because it takes precious, dwindling tax dollars for granted.  It's easy to say-"We'll pay dollars now to eliminate this potential future problem"  But, that is flippant with someone else's money.  We're paying as much as $50K EXTRA in taxpayer money to make this deal happen, when we could have simply followed the judge's order and saved the taxpayers the $50K. 

And suddenly-- we are led to believe that this employee is a HORRIBLE teacher and some kind of monster that cannot be trusted around his adult students--although there has been no signs of him being unsafe with students in his 20 year career in the district.  Sounds like a "paper monster"  has been created.

We lost a hearing and were compelled to bring this employee back on a technicality after we fired this employee for testing positive for using Cocaine. So instead of bringing the employee back and paying him adjusted back pay of around $15K and putting him back to work (what the judge specified in his order)--the district agreed to pay him $75K just to retire and not come back for a job in the future.

We may never know the real story behind the story-- and it is a moot point now --as this measure passed via a 4-1 vote. 

This individual will now be paid $75K in taxpayer dollars to walk away.  My feeling is that people were burned by this guy winning his hearing and did not want to deal with this individual reminding them of it on a regular basis--plus, his replacement is a really swell teacher.

Sorry, I'm not going to support that at taxpayers expense.  And no, I don't buy the safety argument-if he was such a ticking timebomb-why was he not dealt with earlier in his 20 + year career with the district?  

This was just a deal made to make this guy go away at taxpayer's expense--and as I said at the meeting tonight--I'm not going along with it.

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