From the Broward Teacher’s Union:
Just days after BTU President Pat Santeramo threatened to withhold support for tens of millions of dollars in new federal education funding, which requires the union to sign off on, top union and district officials will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 17 in a first ever high-level finance meeting at the BTU office.
BTU President Pat Santeramo said he welcomes Superintendent Jim Notter’s sudden interest in the union’s ideas about how to eliminate waste in Broward schools, cut the school system’s budget and ways to spend the $300 million in federal stimulus dollars already received by the school system. The timing of the union’s statements that Santeramo might withhold support for the district receiving $48 million in “Race to the Top” federal funds with the meeting taking place may be a coincidence.
“The union’s position has not changed,” Santeramo said. “We will continue to be cooperative with the district, but it is long past due for Superintendent Notter to start offering the same level of commitment ”
In preparation for the finance meeting with the district, the BTU issued a Waste Inventory and Prevention Effort (WIPE) Report that outlines over $300 million in waste identified by district employees. The 100 page report includes hundreds of employee observations of waste that permeates virtually every aspect of the district’s operations.
Santeramo described the employees’ observations as shocking and sad for a district that claims to be in an economic crisis. Just a few examples are as follows:
District officials wasting tens of millions of dollars using the wrong bidding system for projects so they can hand-pick contractors.
Officials paying for design work for construction projects that have been shelved.
Empty classrooms filled with valuable science, music and art equipment sitting idle unused by students.
Air conditioning systems district wide that are so poorly regulated employees and students must wear jackets, hats and gloves indoors.
Full size school buses that routinely arrive at schools half empty and many times with less than 10 students on them.
Employees being forced to buy classroom supplies from “approved” district vendors at double to four times the cost when they could buy the same items locally at a substantial savings.
Principals working an extended summer calendar to supervise summer school except for the summer programming has been canceled at their sites.
Administrators renting auditoriums when the school district owns it own facilities that could be used for the same thing.
During the meeting, Santeramo intends to urge the School Board to appoint a new joint union and district committee to review the employees’ waste cutting suggestions. He described the district’s existing Harness the Power Committee, which pays employees for coming up with budget cutting ideas, as a complete failure.
One of the results of the committee has been for administrators to work two days as substitutes at their up to $400 dollar per day rate of pay. The effort has resulted in the district losing more money than it has saved because substitutes normally get paid up to $100 per day. He suggested if the district was serious about saving money and cutting waste, the administrators would substitute for “sub” pay rather than their inflated administrative salaries.
Santeramo said employees want to see Notter and other district officials make a “good faith” effort in eliminating tax dollar waste before Broward schools receive another single penny from the state or federal government. He described the employees’ observations of waste as sad and shocking.
“Our members care about Broward schools and our county’s school children. They want their suggestions for cutting waste to be taken seriously and more important to observe real action by district officials,” Santeramo said.
Letter from BTU to Broward County School Board:
December 17, 2009
Jennifer Gottlieb, Chairperson
The School Board of Broward County, Florida
600 Southeast Third Avenue, 10th Floor
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Dear Chairperson Gottlieb:
I am writing out of outrage concerning the attached Waste Inventory and Prevention Report. I am certain after you read this 100 page report that you will agree the district has completely breached and failed in its fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. I strongly urge you to take immediate action — now –to stop the rampant waste of our district’s state and federal funding.
The district’s Harness the Power Committee has failed miserably to eliminate waste in our school system as evidenced by this report. Since its implementation, the committee has done little to curb the dissipation of hundreds of millions of dollars that should be used to improve the working conditions of employees and enhance the education of our students.
BTU insists that the School Board take action today by launching a new joint union and district committee that seriously addresses the containment of waste and, certainly, does not use our district’s already limited resources to pay employees for their budget-cutting ideas. The attached report of district waste amounting to $367,832,000, which employees supplied for free, provides an excellent starting point for the committee. It is sad that so many employees are reporting the same kinds of waste that are so clearly pervasive district-wide.
I recommend the following timeline for the formation of a new committee:
School Board and BTU President appoints four (4) committee members January 26, 2010
each and Superintendent Notter appoints a staff liaison.
New committee holds first organizational meeting. February 26, 2010
Committee provides first report to School Board members April 27, 2010
at workshop meeting.
School Board members take action of committee recommendations. May 25, 2010
Jennifer Gottlieb, School Board chair
December 17, 2009
The standing committee will solicit employee waste-cutting suggestions, meet monthly, launch and educate employees on energy saving initiatives, and report savings recommendations directly to The School Board of Broward County, Florida at a public meeting on a quarterly basis. The committee would undoubtedly pay for itself in saving the district millions of tax dollars.
Once again, I urge members of the School Board to read the attached report in its entirety. I am sure you will join me in being extremely concerned that such wide-spread waste is continuing to occur unchecked in our school system and, to date, little to nothing has stopped it.
Patrick A. Santeramo