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HomeFloridaNassau CountyNassau Schools "Watchdog" Rebuts Board Chair "Lecture" on Collective Bargaining

Nassau Schools “Watchdog” Rebuts Board Chair “Lecture” on Collective Bargaining

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By Richard Lamken, 11-29-23

(Editor’s note: This is an email sent by Richard Lamken to the Nassau County School District Board Members on 11-22-23. He has attended/commented on nearly every board meeting for years. We welcome comments from Board members, Superintendent and the public.)

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: Richard Lamken

To: Cynthia Grooms <[email protected]>; Gail Cook <[email protected]>; [email protected] <[email protected]>; Curtis Gaus <[email protected]>; [email protected] <[email protected]>

Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 at 08:11:56 AM EST

Subject: Multiple

NCSB members,

Since I was subjected to a lecture on collective bargaining at a School Board meeting by Chair Grooms, I am going to return the favor to the entire Board. 

In my numerous years as a lead management negotiator in K-12 education, I always went in with at least one and, often multiple, must haves, like recruitment and retention bonuses, a separate salary schedule for, say, psychologists and, raising the minimum teachers salary to attract new teachers. There were items I said no to every year, like binding arbitration. It’s the responsibility of the lead management negotiator to stand firm on those items which, from the District’s perspective, were or should have been non-negotiable. 

The District, first, decided to give every employee $4,800 and, then, announced it before reaching a TA with either bargaining unit and, then, settled with NESPA first, three major mistakes, exacerbating the taxpayers belief that they were sold a bill of goods in the 1 Mill referendum marketing. This put the management negotiating team meeting with NTA in an untenable position. However, to agree to give a six year teacher $2,000 when a first-year custodian is getting $4,800 is simply a big screwup by the NCSD negotiators. Once the die was cast by the Superintendent, ignoring the statement that teachers were getting most of the monies allocated for employee compensation from the referendum revenue, all teachers needed to get at least as much as other employees. It’s absurd for the Board or the Superintendent to take the position that the District had to agree to the schedule presented by the NTA negotiators. You, as a Board, ratified this decision without any discussion or disagreement, at least in public. Hopefully, some of you expressed your outrage and/or frustration in executive session.

At the last meeting, Ms. Hogue, thankfully, addressed the issue of numerous teachers leaving Wildlight since the beginning of the school year. She was gaslighted by Dr. Burns, telling her “nothing to see here”. You and I both know that the district does not do exit interviews, instead hands departing employees a poorly written form, leaving it up to them whether to respond. Why didn’t another Board member weigh in on this issue? Why was Ms. Hogue allowed to be alone on an item that should be of real concern to you all? How many would have to leave by this point of the school year from one school for you to be concerned? 25? 30? 40?

My team and I conducted professional exit interviews, mostly by phone, of the teachers who left 2 years ago. The four most common responses as to why they left were:

School site administrators

School site culture 

District administrators 

District culture

Could this also be true of the 20 departing teachers at Wildlight?

During an exchange between Mr. Hodges and the five of you about the proposed job description for the HR Coordinator at an earlier meeting, Mr. Hodges stated that he had the information that Dr. Grooms requested and it was available to give to her before the Board meeting but it hadn’t been vetted the Superintendent and Mr. Hodges wasn’t at liberty to provide it without it being reviewed by Dr. Burns. None of you commented about this and it’s absurdity and the fact that it prevents you from making informed decisions. I was frequently called directly by a Board member for additional information about an item on the Personnel Agenda before the Board meeting. It was so much better than being surprised the night of a Board meeting.

During the same discussion, an employee of HR made a serious accusation, that Mr. Hodges was giving the new position to an existing department employee, which would result in a 50% salary increase, while keeping most of the same job responsibilities. It would also not be an exempt position, which it should be, and would make this employee still eligible for OT. The one presenting the accusation further stated that she would not be considered despite possessing both an Associates and a Bachelor’s degree while person who would be given the position was only a HS graduate. Per her, this was the reason Mr. Hodges was so adamant about not adding the Associates degree as a required qualification. If her accusation is verified as true, this is a terminable offense by the HR Director. If it’s proved to be a completely false accusation, the employee should be terminated. Why didn’t you insist that this be investigated? And investigated by someone independent of District administration?

I am grateful to the three of you who voted down the job description because it didn’t have an Associates Degree as a minimum qualification. 

I intend to publish this and would like to include your responses. Thank you for all you do.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Richard Lamken

Previous relevant article:

Rich Lamken on Nassau School District – Very Weak Negotiation

Opinion By Rich Lamken, 10-26-23 There’s only one word for the District’s handling of the employee compensation portion of the 1 mill referendum revenue distribution and…

Richard Lamken is a retired Assistant Superintendent of Schools. He volunteers in the Emergency Department of Baptist Nassau and as a career/employment counselor for the Barnabas Empowerment Program, assisting those looking for work and those looking for more meaningful employment.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida

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