First thing Monday morning, I will submit a request to Supt. Jackie Byrd to schedule an emergency School Board session to change negotiating parameters. I’m happy to have this meeting in public. But we can do it in executive session if other board members insist.
I have no idea whether we will schedule one.
But my observations tell me we’re not going to change the dynamics in this negotiation unless the School Board changes the direction we’ve given our lawyers and negotiators. Here is my three-fold recommendation for new parameters:
1) Eliminate from negotiation anything not related to this year’s salaries. Let’s just go status quo on whether health insurance and teacher evaluation can sit in the collective bargaining agreement. We’ve wasted far too much time and energy on abstractions. Let’s get real.
2) Instruct our finance staff to provide three options for salary increases, ranging from .5 to 3.0 percent. Provide one option structured as 1-time bonus. Lay out clearly the trade-offs related to fund balances, etc. Invite the PEA negotiators to lay out their case for which option they prefer. Allow the Board/District to rebut. Then let’s vote on one of the options and take some public responsibility.
3) Let’s work together closely with our teachers and staff to shame and pressure Tallahassee and our legislators into providing better funding for our instructional staff.
7 months lost
In my little speech at Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, I said: “This impasse plan probably dates till June or May.”
Here’s a pretty good piece of evidence for that. This is the consultant agreement with Allen Norton and Blue, the Tallahassee law firm we hired to handle negotiations. ANB is a very high-powered labor firm that focuses exclusively on management interests. I believe they were hired as weapon to be used against our teachers and staff. That’s not acceptable to me.
As you can see, the contract began June 9. We’re paying ANB $225/hour of your money. We’ve either paid them — or plan to pay them — $75,000. It’s a little hard to tell. It looks like they’ve change-ordered us at some point. If they do it again, I’m sure we could go over $75,000.
From my point-of-view, as a board member, I see no value at all in the time and money we’ve spent on ANB. But I have received some sensible pushback on criticism of the lawyers. And it’s certainly true that 98 percent of responsibility for this rests with the School Board and district leadership. I don’t want to lose focus of that.
That’s why I’m calling for action. I want to put my fellow board members to the test on our relationship with our key employees. Let’s see what happens.