By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Faced with continued financial problems, Miami-Dade public school officials are recommending the layoff of more than 200 employees directly involved or in support of construction and maintenance operations.
Citing a drastic reduction in funding for capital projects and the need to balance the 2011-2012 budget, Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho outlined a reorganization and reduction-in-force plan in an agenda item that the Miami-Dade School Board will consider Wednesday.
Broward Schools, faced with a possible restructuring its construction department in the wake of a scathing critique by the Statewide Grand Jury, could seek similar cuts.
The proposed Miami-Dade job reductions — and other major actions — are:
- 60 employees, some of them project managers, represented by the Dade County School Administrators’ Association (DCSAA), a union of professional and technical employees; many work in facilities and maintenance as supervisors. Some of the layoffs will be phased as capital projects are completed.
- 23 higher paid secretarial employees in a grouping referred to as Confidential Exempt.
- 280 computer technicians and specialists represented by the Dade County School Maintenance Employee Committee (DCSMEC), a union of skilled trades employees. Approximately 200 will be rehired as temporary employees.
- 48 non-instructional employees performing office work in various district offices, represented by the United Teachers of Dade.
- Four administrative employees in a grouping referred to as Managerial Exempt Personnel.
- A $5 million giveback, for one year, of compensation previously negotiated by DCSMEC in lieu of layoffs.
- Downsizing of the capital construction force, to include the elimination of some job groups and the lowering of job pay grades.
The overall impact of the savings is about $27 million, according to the memo from Carvalho’s office.
”The District reorganization is being proposed at this time to help balance the 2011-2012 budget, and to continue to improve efficiencies,” the memo said.
“Quite frankly, it’s unconscionable,” said maintenance union executive director Charles Burdeen. “I’m convinced this is union-busting.”
Burdeen said it makes no sense to lay-off any of his employees when so much pending work still has to be done in capital and maintenance. “These people are ignoring reality.”
“The district has $1.8 billion in deferred maintenance, that’s a disaster,” he said.
The district has under enrolled schools, Burdeen said, yet is spending more than $20 million for a new high school in Coral Gables and more than $12 million to acquire and remodel the old Homestead Hospital for a medical arts high school. In addition, Burdeen said the district has spent millions to retrofit the downtown district annex building for a virtual high school and an elementary school.
But Jaime Torrens, the district’s chief facilities officer, said Burdeen is missing the point of the cuts.
“The issue is funding,” he said. “We have no choice. There are not sufficient funds to maintain the current workforce.”
As for the two new high school projects, Torrens said they were acted on when funding was available and students are now seeking to get into the schools. He said the maintenance at the schools in the annex costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions as Burdeen suggested.
Miami-Dade is not alone in troubles with school construction.
The Broward School Board was roundly criticized by the statewide grand jury for shoddy construction and mismanagement at its Facilities and Construction Management Department was run.
At a meeting last week, the board asked outgoing Superintendent of Schools Jim Notter and his staff to look at restructuring the department. One board member suggested privatizing its functions and jobs.
Notter and Thomas Lindner, Acting Deputy Superintendent Facilities and Construction Management, could not be reached for comment.
Notter, slapped by the grand jury for failing to exert leadership, departs June 30. He announced his resignation in the wake of the grand jury report.
His recommendations on dealing with the matter could last only until a new superintendent takes office, when more changes are likely.
In Miami-Dade, Joe Cortese, a maintenance union official, said district officials came to the union seeking a solution in order to avoid layoffs. The $5 million compensation adjustment will come from employees who resign or retire, or who agree to take 80 percent of their salary for one year in lieu of layoff, he said.
The computer technicians and specialists only recently joined the maintenance union after successfully withdrawing from another union. During an unrepresented interval period, these employees had their work year reduced.
Cortese said that about 200 of the the 280 techs and specialists who would be laid off would also be reemployed temporarily at an annual salary of about $43,000 annually, plus full benefits. Their jobs would become permanent in three years, Cortese said.
William Gjebre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org