Union leader threatens lawsuit over school district job changes

VERO BEACH – The Indian River County School Board Tuesday night accepted Superintendent Harry La Cava’s personnel recommendations for school district administrative positions over the strong objections of the teacher’s union on the way the jobs were advertised.

The moves for the 2010-2011 school year means two schools will have new principals while the two principals will move into jobs at school district headquarters.

Oslo Middle School Principal Deborah Long was named director of staff development and human resources. Her old job will be filled by Sean Brown, who returned last month from active military leave. Kevin Browning, the current district director of human resources, was selected as principal of Pelican Island Elementary. In addition, Pelican Island Elementary principal Jody Idlette Bennett was named executive director of core curriculum, a position that opened after Sue Curtis retired.

The board voted 3 to 1 in approving  the appointments.  Board member Debbie MacKay cast the dissenting vote, while member Claudia Jimenez was absent.

Dianne Falvo, the school union’s Service Unit Director, spoke out against the moves because the positions were not advertised.  School Board Attorney Usher “Larry” Brown said La Cava did not have to advertise the jobs because the recommendations involved transferring current administrators to other administrative positions.

“The district owes it to the public, as well as to the students in the district to post these positions to applicants,” said Falvo.   “Absent that, the IRCEA is going to have no option but to file a grievance.  Right now my recommendation would be to file an unfair labor practice suit as well.   We do not want to do that.”

According to Falvo, the contract language is clear about job postings.

“The position of Director of Core Curriculum, and director of Staff Development at HR are promotional positions and need to be posted,” said Falvo.   “It’s clear that if a position is simply a transfer, there’s no increase in pay-it’s a lateral position.   For example, a transfer would occur if an elementary principal went from one elementary school position to another elementary school position as principal.  There’s no increase in pay, and it is a lateral transfer.”

She pointed out that none of the moves La Cava recommended were transfers.  Former Citrus Elementary Principal Sean Brown is coming back from a five-year leave military active duty leave, and will be the new Oslo Middle School principal.

“That’s on a totally different pay scale, and it is a promotional position,” said Falvo.  “I’m not saying the people that are slotted to go into these positions may not be the ones that would have been selected in the end.   I would think the district would want the very best applicants available out there.  The only way that you can do that is if these positions are posted, people get to know they are available, and they apply.”

Falvo also took issue with the new jobs for Also former Pelican Island Elementary Principal Jody Idlette Bennett to Executive Director of Core Curriculum and the promotion of former Oslo Middle School Principal Deborah Long to the new director of staff development and human resources. “That’s going from a pay grade four to a pay grade three-it’s a promotional position,” said Falvo.  “You don’t have a board rule that requires positions to be posted (in Indian River County).  I don’t think I’ve ever come across a district where that has not been the practice, much less the board rule.  The language in the contract not only protects IRCEA members, but it also protects the public.”

School Board Attorney Usher “Larry” Brown said La Cava was on solid legal ground in making the administrative changes.

“In an appellate court case in Dade County, it was established you don’t look at anything but the reason that there is good cause to reject that person in the position in which the person is being transferred,” said the lawyer.   “But there is no case in Florida that says that because the union raises a procedural issue of this type, that it constitutes good cause.”

La Cava stood by his recommendations in saying, “We didn’t add administrators, we moved administrators.”

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