March 2012

U.T. Study: MNPS Employees Not Happy w/ Register & Changes

As was reported by the Nashville City Paper, Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) support staff overwhelmingly disapprove of policy changes made to the Support Staff Handbook unilaterally by Dr. Jesse Register, MNPS director of schools, according to new research conducted by The University of Tennessee.

The surveyed employees include support staff members such as educational assistants, food service workers, campus supervisors, secretaries and bookkeepers. Only half (52.3%) identified themselves as a member of a union. The study asked support staff members’ views on various issues, including:

  • Support Staff Handbook Changes:  Three-fourths (74%) of surveyed employees were aware of changes to the handbook. Of those, nearly 70% disagree with the changes and more than 80% believe the changes have negatively impacted support staff morale. Half (49.3%) believe the changes have had a “major negative impact.”
  • Support Staff Morale:  Three-fifths (60.9%) of surveyed employees believe Register has had a “major negative” impacted on morale since he became director of schools.
  • Support Staff Value:  Half (50.5%) of the surveyed employees do not feel that their job is valued by Register.

“School support staff members work every day and to ensure that students across Davidson County are able to learn in safe, stable and productive school environments,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205, the group that commissioned the study. “They often work behind the scenes in thankless jobs, but their positive impact on the students’ education and our schools’ cultures is significant.”

In December 2011, Register unveiled policy changes in the Support Staff Handbook that he made without consultation of the school board or support staff. The changes implemented by MNPS include:

  • Removal of a grievance policy:  Employees can no longer dispute unjust actions against them, including termination.
  • Discharge for good, bad or no cause:  Even if an employee is a good employee, he or she can be terminated for no cause, without recourse.
  • No auto reappointment:  Employees do not have any guarantee of a job from year to year.
  • School principals are the sole hiring decision-makers:  A school’s top administrator can promote and select employees based on personal preference regardless of years of experience and ability.
  • No preference for current employees:  An employee who has many years of experience in the same job can easily be replaced with a less experienced employee.

“Unfortunately, the Metro Nashville Public School administration believes it has the ability to treat support staff unfairly by robbing these vital school employees of their voices and job security,” Collier continued. “In reality, no one should have the ability to take away the basic rights of employees.”

The study, conducted by the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation at The University of Tennessee, polled a random sample of 400 of the 3,000 total MNPS support staff members. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Read the complete report here.

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SEIU Files Ethics Complaints Against MNPS Director and School Board Members

As reported by The Tennessean and other media outlets, SEIU Local 205 has filed ethics complaints against MNPS Director Jesse Register and the members of the Metro Board of Education over these officials’ failure to file financial disclosure forms under the Metro Ethics Code.

“Metro Nashville Public Schools officials make decisions every day that affect the lives of thousands of families,” explained Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205. “The public has a right to know that critical decisions that impact our community’s school system are made in an atmosphere that is free of any conflicts of interest.”

Local 205 filed its complaints under the provisions of the Metro Ethics Code, which requires that all elected officials and executive officers of most Metro agencies, boards, and commissions file disclosure reports each year describing the officials’ sources of income as well as gifts and other things of value received from third parties.

The Union’s complaint against Dr. Register points out that, in his last two annual disclosure reports, Register has refused to complete the section of the form that requires disclosure of “anything of value” received from third parties.

In addition, Local 205 has confirmed that the members of the Board of Education have failed to file any disclosure reports with the Metro Clerk, even though the Ethics Code explicitly requires the reports must be filed by “the holders of all elected offices authorized or created by the Metropolitan Charter.”

“We were astonished to learn that Dr. Register and the members of the Board of Education have failed to file the disclosure reports that every member of Metro Council and other executive officials of Metro Government file every year,” stated Collier. “The Metro Ethics Code does not make any exceptions for MNPS officials or school board members.”

In a March 18 letter to The Tennessean, Register claimed that the current MNPS ethics policy does not require financial disclosure reports, “but we are working on one now that will do so.” Register’s position ignores the fact that the existing Metro Code already applies to MNPS officials and the Board of Education.

“Dr. Register needs to learn that he and other MNPS officials are not above the law,” Collier observed. “The existing Metro Ethics Code is quite clear. We are simply asking that the leaders of Nashville’s public school system should immediately disclose the same information required of other Metro public officials.”

In accordance with the Ethics Code, the Union filed the complaint against Dr. Register with the Board of Education, while the complaint against Board members was filed with the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct. Copies of both complaints are available upon request.

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Union Pushes for and Wins Repeal of Chattanooga’s “10% Rule”

It was a big win for Chattanooga city employees and for fairness when the City Council amended the city’s appeals policy.

If an employee was suspended or demoted and it did not cost the employee 10% of their salary over a three year period, they would not be able to appeal their discipline past their administrator.

Now because of the work SEIU members did in educating city council members, the city has fixed this injustice. Now, all employees have the right to appeal disciplinary actions involving lost time whether they’ve lost money or not.

“This would not have happened without union members working both behind the scenes and in the public eye to point out the unfairness of the old policy,” says Nancy Nason, who works in the city’s IS department. “Getting the big problems solved is one of the reasons why we formed a union and all city employees, whether they’re members or not, should be thankful that SEIU was out fighting for their rights.”

 

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