LETTER TO EDITOR from Teachers’ Union President

Posted on August 14, 2017 by OPINION - Rhonda Chavers

Dear Editor,

The impasse hearing occurred the evening of Thursday, August 10, 2017, at Benny Russell Elementary school. All five school board members voted and agreed with Tim Wyrosdick’s recommendation to reject Special Magistrate Robert Hoffman’s recommendations. In typical Santa Rosa School Board style and after almost no discussion, the superintendent’s recommendation was passed with a 5/0 vote. Jennifer Granse made the motion and Diane Scott quickly seconded the motion.

Given the District’s current fund balance of $27.8 million, it is amazing that this board claims they could not afford the additional $1.2M needed to reward employees with the magistrate’s 2.77% recommended increase in pay. Even worse, since they voted to not pay retroactively, this School Board has not spent one dime on educator pay increases for 2016-17.

We must briefly respond to the insulting and inflammatory remarks made by the District’s Jacksonville attorney regarding the evidence SRPE presented to the Special Magistrate. Mr. Dickinson, speaking with Mr. Wyrosdick’s approval, accused SRPE, and specifically our negotiations team member David Godwin, of lying and misleading the Special Magistrate. He also suggested that the District budget was far too complicated for us to understand or explain to the Magistrate. What Mr. Dickinson failed to mention is that he never ONCE made this argument at the hearing. He never ONCE attempted to dispute the evidence presented by David Godwin and SRPE when he had a chance to do so in front of the Magistrate. And when Mr. Dickinson had an entire 30 days to prepare his written argument for the District, you guessed it, he never ONCE argued that the evidence we presented was false, misleading, or in any way inaccurate. Only after the Magistrate had clearly and forcefully recommended in SRPE’s favor did the District decide that this decision was, in Mr. Wyrosdick’s word, “tainted.”

The fact is, we presented a strong case, we had a compelling witness in David Godwin, and most importantly, the District couldn’t dispute their own budget numbers in front of the Magistrate. The information provided to the magistrate was compiled from the Santa Rosa County School district’s sites, documents, and emails received through public records requests. Much information also comes from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), and public record requests to other Florida districts. Our data is fully supported by reference links, hard copies, and public requests emails. Our website administrator is working to upload the expansive 217 page document to our website for your review, so that you can see firsthand all supporting evidence and facts.

So what is NEXT? Unlike the phrase mentioned in the recent letter sent out the night of the hearing by the Superintendent, negotiations cannot began immediately! The bargaining unit has to vote on whether to ratify the 16-17 contract! The district NOW has to put their language in writing and then it will be presented to the bargaining unit members to cast a vote to accept it or reject it. If it is rejected — the school board has to meet and decide whether or not to impose their language, for one year only.

Stay tuned for more information to be sent out regarding the ratification vote once we get the final information/dates from the district.

We sincerely appreciate the support from the two hundred plus people that joined us at the Impasse hearing. Thank you to many of you that had your family members and friends speak on your behalf while you were at your worksite’s orientation. We felt the energy present even by those not able to attend.

Thank you for your time, and continued support,
Rhonda Chavers
SRPE President

Bargaining Team Members:
Ruth Blackman
Marie Bodi
Rhonda Chavers
David Godwin
Landra McCrary
Tamela Strickland