The Polk School District would make lousy Corleones.
Indeed, if you put aside all the horrible moral and business considerations for a second, there is something darkly hilarious about how the District's very high priced labor lawyer opened negotiations with the people who teach our children seven hours per day.
The district has hired labor attorney Michael Mattimore with Allen Norton & Blue in Tallahassee to help with negotiations. Mattimore and Mike Perrone, the district's chief financial officer, did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment about the negotiations.
District spokesman Jason Geary confirmed the labor attorney had proposed no raises, but said negotiations are ongoing.
If you offer zero, there is no negotiation. Ask Michael Corleone. You never offer zero if you don't intend to land on zero. The only conceivable reason to offer zero in a negotiation with skilled workers you need is that you don't have the money to pay them. Or if you're a mafia don. In either case, there is no countering.
This is, in a word, stupid. And very expensive. All the money per hour we taxpayers are shoveling into the pockets of Michael Mattimore could be contributed to a raise pool.
I don't know who authorized these high-priced lawyers to insult our teachers without purpose. I don't know who said, "Hey, you know what be a great idea for reversing our teacher shortage and crushing morale problems? Let's offer nothing to our teachers and then tell them to negotiate. That will be hilarious."
It sounds like Wes Bridges to me. He's made millions off Polk taxpayers giving this type of advice for years. And I would think all legal matters flow through him. But that doesn't let anybody off the hook, from the School Board to the superintendent.
The teachers should counteroffer with a 10 percent raise and just freeze things in place until the election. The district undoubtedly wants to go to impasse for some absurd reason. And the School Board is far too pathetic to stop it. We shouldn't waste time haggling. We should see how the vote comes out.
If I am elected, with my first motion, I will call for the district to end our relationship with Michael Mattimore and associates. That's my offer. Nothing. And unlike the clowns leading this "negotiation," I actually mean "nothing." If we need labor law expertise, we can get it from someone else.
In my second motion, I will propose that we restart negotiations with an overhauled compensation committee of human beings, who don't speak through lawyers. And I will propose that the District provide immediately whatever data the teachers have been seeking since May.
Teachers and staff are the community
On the exact same day that the School District tried to play mafia don, its leadership held a silly dog-and-pony press availability urging community involvement with the Stigmatized 5 schools.
They're lying. Don't listen to what they say. Watch what they do. They're lying.
The Polk School District is Polk's largest employer. It has 13,000 employees. This is the public. These are the people of the community. Polk's employees are the most likely to recruit their own families and friends and the public-at-large to help them in their mission. Because they are the closest to it. Yet, as I understand it, all non-administrators, not just the 7,000 or so teachers, got the same offer of nothing. The Polk District just told the public to suck it. We'd rather pay labor lawyers.
Lynn Wilson seems to be the only Board Member willing to acknowledge this. And I exclude him from my blanket criticism of the Board's cowardice and ineptitude. But at some point, someone has to put a foot down.
That will only happen if you vote for change. This School District's approach to teachers and education is Hunt Berryman's approach. He has said it over and over again. He will not change. He wants to keep spending your money on labor lawyers, not classrooms.