I voted against 9 contracts tonight for supplemental education services (SES) providers. The reason for my no vote, which I discussed in depth at the School Board Workshop on Friday, was because a section of each of these contracts (20. A.) specified that for route management services, the SES providers would pay $500 per school for this service. I have no issue with charging these third-party, SES providers this fee—the issue is that the contracts also specified that this entire $500.00 fee would go directly to the route manager assigned to each school—the district would not receive a penny of the money! I had no intention of going on and on about my reasons for voting no last night at the meeting, until each and every board member took a turn saying they strongly supported this plan and then the superintendent took a turn saying this was the right thing to do. And they all talked about "student safety" and "no cost to the district" and other red herrings were thrown out that did not coincide with the reality of my disagreement with the issue. So, After they all spoke, I again addressed the issue and explained my precise reason for the no vote for the record.
The fact of the matter is that I looked deeply into this issue, and I could find no other transportation department in the state doing what Escambia is proposing. Not One. At the Department of Education, I spoke with transportation specialists that had never heard of anything like this being done. So, I did not gingerly jump into this issue.
Now, if these route managers were hourly and not salaried employees, I would not have an issue with their receiving additional compensation. These route managers in Escambia County, however, are well-paid, salaried employees that earn as much as $61,000.00 yearly. They are not subject to a collective bargaining agreement and therefore can be made to work overtime without additional compensation. And this extra work they will be doing will be on district computers, using expensive district software. I think appropriate compensation for these employees could have been “comp” time—with the monetary payments staying with the district. I was alone in that feeling, which is not surprising given my background as a small business owner. My colleagues on the board and the superintendent are all long term government employees. We see things differently.
Now, I’m told that these route manager employees only work on the SES routing “after their regular work-day hours”—however, because they are salaried and not hourly employees, how could this ever be verified? How do we know that these employees do not fit this additional work into their workday and daylight for this extra compensation? I'm not going to go down there, and this is out of my lanes in terms of what my role is in the district. But the question does come to my mind.
Our attorney did look into this issue and her opinion is that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, additional
compensation can be paid to Salaried Exempt employees in this instance. My feeling is that even if something is legal, it does not always make it the right thing to do. A well-paid, salaried employee should realize that in some instances the boss will give extra work and that is just the way it is and it comes with the territory of being a salaried employee. Understanding that these employees work 45-50 hours weekly on average, my feeling still remains that extra work comes with the territory-- and the expectation and realization of extra pay for working a few extra hours weekly by salaried/exempt employees in the district sets a dangerous precedent and puts us on a slippery-slope. I mean, who will be the next salaried/exempt employee that will advocate for additional pay for additional work in our district? Title I employees? Charter School Administrators? Principals who stay late for PTA fundraisers?
I do not believe a private employer locally paying his/her employees as much as $61,000 yearly would feel so obligated to give his salaried employee additional monies for working a few extra hours weekly on a short-term basis in a situation similar to what has been proposed for our route managers. And if he did, I doubt that it would be the full amount the third party was paying to the company ($500)—I just think the house would get some of that. In our district, the “house” is the district’s coffers (taxpayer’s money). And maybe that’s why nobody else had an issue with these contracts..........
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.