Metro Nashville Public Schools


SEIU Wins Two Lawsuits Against Metro Nashville School District!

Since 2010, Local 205 has been in a pitched battle with Metro Nashville Public Schools director Jesse Register ever since Register ordered the layoff of nearly 700 school custodians. Local 205 filed two lawsuits to challenge Register’s power grab and has won both of them. Here’s an update.

SEIU 205 vs. MNPS

This case challenged Dr. Register’s right to do away with the Labor Negotiations Policy (“LNP”) which was approved by the School Board in 2000. The LNP is the core document which protects workers rights, their employee handbook, and their grievance procedure among other things. SEIU maintained, and the court agreed, that Register’s decision to unilaterally do away with the LNP without a vote by the School Board, was unlawful. The court said that the LNP from 2000 is still in effect and can only be repealed by a vote by the School Board. The district has appealed this decision and the union is awaiting a court date.


In this case, SEIU represented Tanya Aina-Labinjo, a school cashier who was terminated from MNPS. The union maintains that under state law and the Metro charter, that Ms. Labinjo and all support staff in the schools have the right to appeal, with cause, a termination to the School Board. MNPS maintains that the superintendent (Register) has the final say, but the court agreed with SEIU that the Metro charter “require that that the Board of Education… act in the capacity of a civil service commission concerning non-teaching employees who are dismissed.” The school district appealed the ruling and lost their appeal.

We will continue to keep members advised on updates in MNPS.


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SEIU Still Fighting & Winning for Support Staff in Metro Schools!

Despite what you may have heard from some administrators, SEIU Local 205 is still representing support staff working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Whether it’s filing grievances, handling disciplinary meetings, or getting information to our members in the workplace, SEIU is still on the job and we’re still signing up new members to join in the struggle to bring dignity and respect into the workplace despite all obstacles. Here are just a few of the things your Union has done recently for its members:

Job Placement
Because Dr. Register did away with workers rights in the Support Employee Handbook that was negotiated by workers, many MNPS employees found themselves without a job at the end of the school year. SEIU representatives worked tirelessly to make sure that our members did not slip through the cracks.

We monitored the process of displacement and job elimination, we assisted on transfers, and ensured that dozens of loyal MNPS employees were able to stay employed this year and are able to get back to serving students.

Thanks to effective representation by SEIU…

  • A Food Service member was able to keep her job.
  • A member had a reprimand removed from their record.
  • A secretary whose job was eliminated was placed in one of the high schools.
  • A Food Service employee’s pay issue was resolved.
  • A guidance clerk whose job was eliminated was able to keep a job and got placed.

Political Action
SEIU helped elect a pro-labor candidate to the Metro School Board in the last election against all odds and it was a story that made national headlines. SEIU continues to meet with School Board members, elected officials, and community partners to ensure MNPS employees’ rights are protected.





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SEIU Makes the Difference in Nashville School Board Races

Union members Michelle Hardy and Natasha Hobbs prepare for a hard day of campaigning for Amy Frogge.

Union members Michelle Hardy and Natasha Hobbs prepare for a hard day of campaigning for Amy Frogge.

SEIU members were thrilled to have helped elect Amy Frogge to the Metro School Board in the election’s biggest upset. Frogge, a public school parent, PTO president, and attorney, ran against a corporate executive who raised over $115,000 (and counting) and a well-known former Metro Council member. SEIU was the only organization to endorse Frogge, who won in a landslide even though she was outspent by nearly 5-to-1.

Tonya Darvin, an MNPS bus monitor and SEIU member was thrilled to see that her hard work for Amy’s campaign paid off. “I am so glad that we’re going to have some new blood on this school board,” Tonya said. ” We went out in the hot sun in record-breaking heat to talk to voters about the candidates and it was time and effort well spent. We need to move away from the anti-worker policies that have happened over the last year in the schools. Being pro-education means supporting all the people who provide the education. I’m hoping this new school board can move in that direction”.

In the other races, Ed Kindall narrowly lost re-election to the well-funded campaign of Sharon Gentry, Fred Lee came up short in a close race against Jill Speering, and Al Wilkins was defeated by the well-funded campaign of Will Pinkston, a former aide to Governor Bredesen.

Lill Russell, a special education assistant in Metro Schools who worked on the union’s campaign over the summer, took some of the election results in stride. “Look I’ve been around politics long enough to know that you win a few and you lose a few,” Lill said. “The struggle that we’re facing in MNPS isn’t going to be over after the polls are closed. This is an ongoing campaign to restore dignity, fairness, and employee rights. This election isn’t going to stop us from continuing to stand up for our co-workers, the taxpayers, and the students.”

Many SEIU members put as much value on the experience they had this summer as they did on the election results. “I’m so glad to have worked on this campaign this summer,” said Arlanders Hunter, an in-school suspension monitor at Maplewood High School. “I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Not just about politics, but how valuable my union is in making sure that my co-workers’ interests are looked out for. I plan on getting more involved with my union after this election is over.”

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MNPS Misleads Public About Layoffs of Special-Ed Employees

When Metro Nashville Public Schools first announced that they would be laying off 130 special-education paraprofessionals, they said it was because of stimulus funding that ran out for recent hires. But as Channel 4’s Nancy Amons discovered, workers with decades of experience and good evaluations were also shown the door.

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Parents Revolt, Demand Answers for Layoff of Over 130 Special-Ed Instructors

Parents of special needs children in Metro Nashville Public Schools were outraged at the decision by the district to eliminate the jobs of approximately 130 special-ed paraprofessionals across the city.

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Local 205 Wins Lawsuit Against Metro Schools!

For Immediate Release:

Court Finds MNPS Support Employees Entitled to Appeals

“School Board must do its job and hear employee appeals,” Union says

NASHVILLE, TN – Tanya Aina-Labinjo of Antioch has won a major victory in a lawsuit she filed in April against Dr. Jesse Register and the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, seeking the right to appeal her termination to the Board of Education.

Ms. Aina-Labinjo, who worked as a cashier in the cafeteria at Cane Ridge High School, was terminated by the district in mid-February. After her termination, she submitted a request for an appeal hearing to Board of Public Education chairwoman Gracie Porter. An attorney for Metro responded, saying that an appeal hearing was not warranted. According to the lawsuit filed by Ms. Aina-Labinjo, however, the Metro Charter gives terminated employees an absolute right to appeal to the Board of Public Education.

At a hearing on May 7, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle made the decision to grant a peremptory writ of mandamus compelling the Board of Public Education to hear Ms. Aina-Labinjo’s appeal. Chancellor Lyle found that the provisions of the Metro Charter clearly provided for an appeal, despite recent changes to state law. In addition, Chancellor Lyle found that public policy favors an administrative appeal to the Board of Public Education. A signed order is expected soon.

“We are very pleased to have achieved this result for Ms. Aina-Labinjo and to confirm the right of non-teaching employees to appeal to the school board. The fact that the court was willing to issue a writ of mandamus, which is extraordinary relief, demonstrates the strength and validity of Ms. Aina-Labinjo’s lawsuit,” said Dewey Branstetter, Ms. Aina-Labinjo’s attorney. Mr. Branstetter has extensive experience dealing with the Metro Charter and was a former member of the Metro Board of Public Education himself. He adds, “When someone’s livelihood is at stake, an appeal helps ensure that they are treated fairly. That was the intent of the Metro Charter, and that is what the court found.”

“Tanya deserves to be heard by the Board,” says Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205. SEIU represents support employees in the Metro Schools and supports Ms. Aina-Labinjo in her suit against the district. “We never understood why the Board thought it could avoid this responsibility. We are pleased that the court agreed that it is the duty of the Board to hear her appeal.”


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Under Fire, Register Announces New Ethics Policy

As reported by The TennesseanNewsChannel 5, and the Nashville City Paper, Metro Schools director Dr. Jesse Register announced a new “disclosure of interest” form for himself and other senior MNPS officials at the April 10 school board meeting. The action by Register comes in the wake of a newspaper investigation and an ethics complaint filed by officials at SEIU Local 205.

Dr. Register has also released public documents to Local 205 and other media outlets. SEIU attorneys are reviewing the documents and the new disclosure form and we will have a statement shortly.

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State Legislator Calls for Jesse Register to Resign

State Representative Gary Moore (D-Joelton) has requested that the Metro Nashville school board ask for the resignation or dismiss the director of schools, Dr. Jesse Register, for violating his own contract and not following ethics and financial disclosure requirements.

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SPECIAL REPORT: The Campaign for Justice in Metro Schools

Metro Nashville Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jesse Register has declared war on the hard-working families who are employed in Nashville’s public schools.

In 2010, Register laid off nearly 700 school custodians and groundskeepers to bring in a private contractor. By nearly all accounts, schools are dirtier than they’ve ever been and Register has yet to demonstrate any cost savings to taxpayers because of outsourcing.  But that was just Dr. Register’s first salvo on the people who make our schools run. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) from his attacks on the people who serve our children…

  • Dr. Register creates a new Employee Handbook for the district’s support staff, which the employees had no input on.  Among other things, Register’s handbook decimates employee rights, including removing language on reappointment, disciplinary appeals, and layoff rights. It is worth noting that creating personnel policy is the responsibility of the School Board, not the Director of Schools. That is spelled out in board policy and in Dr. Register’s contract.
  • Administrators circulate the new Employee Handbook.  Meanwhile, principals and some managers are telling employees in captive audience meetings held during school hours at taxpayer expense that they “no longer have a union” and that “the union can’t represent you anymore”. These statements are both false.
  • Over the holidays, Register sends out a letter that says that he is “rescinding” the district’s Labor Negotiations Policy, which was voted on by the school board and has been in place since 2001. Register does not have the authority to do this, but the School Board will not publicly challenge him. It is unknown at this time whether Register or the School Board got a legal opinion from Metro about the legality of this action.
  • In January, SEIU Local 205 files a written complaint with the School Board regarding Register’s unlawful decision to rescind the labor policy and to change the Handbook.
  • Nashville’s Metro Council passes a resolution by a vote of 29-5 urging Register to comply with the district’s Labor Negotiations Policy and to uphold the school board’s existing Governance Policy. Register’s written response to the Council is full of misleading statements about SEIU and misinterpretations of MNPS board policy. Former school board member Karen Johnson, who now sits on the Metro Council, testified during the debate that Dr. Register is not following board policy.
  • In response to Dr. Register’s actions, nearly 300 workers, clergy, legislators, and parents turn out for the Feb. 14 school board meeting. Testimony from an MNPS employee reveals that Dr. Register told a group of support staff at Hillwood High that they “should be grateful they even have a job”. Jeers fill the room. State legislators urge Dr. Register “not to create a labor problem for our city”. The SEIU president asks what progress has been made with the complaint that he had filed back in January.
  • In an appearance on the live call-in show OpenLine on NewsChannel 5+, Dr. Register says that support staff have a “culture of entitlement” but that “he probably shouldn’t say that on the air”. This comment goes out over the airwaves due to a technical glitch and is caught on a YouTube video that goes viral. Local media learn of Register’s gaffe and ridicule the fact that Register will make a salary of over $1 million over four years and that he has a legally-binding contract that is not tied to performance while the “entitled” support staff have no contract, can be fired with or without cause, and only make between $25,000-$35,000 a year.
  • A front-page investigation by The Tennessean reveals that Dr. Register “violated the terms of his contract, and possibly the city’s ethics code, by failing to file financial disclosure statements with the Metro Clerk for 2010 and 2011.” The article mentions several other interesting tidbits that deserve more scrutiny—Register still has not disclosed gifts, meals, trips, and other expenses that he has gotten since working at MNPS and that a foundation that he used to work for, the Annenberg Institute, has received nearly $700,000 in MNPS contracts since Register was hired in Nashville.
  • Mayor Karl Dean calls for Register to address the ethics issues. Meanwhile, SEIU Local 205 files ethics complaints against Register. State Representative Gary Moore (D-Joelton) calls for Dr. Register to resign or for the school board to dismiss him because he has violated his employment contract over the ethics/disclosure filings.


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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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