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.