The School Board will meet at 5 p.m. today in Key West to vote on whether to approve Superintendent Mark Porter's pick for the position of Executive Director of Human Resources, and an emergency line of credit, among other items.
Ramon M. Dawkins is currently employed with Pinellas County Schools. He was previously employed by both the Miami-Dade and Broward County public school districts in "site-based leadership positions . . . including responsibilities in the areas of professional development and labor relations, targeted areas for growth in the Monroe County Schools," according to a press release disseminated early Monday by Porter.
Dawkins holds a Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, with an emphasis in Human Resource Development, from Nova Southeastern University. He also holds bachelors and masters degrees from Morehouse College, and Nova Southeastern University, respectively.
Porter passed over 21 applicants in selecting Dawkins for the HR job, which came open following the resignation of former Director of Human Relations Cheryl Allen earlier this spring. Allen, who worked for the district for more than three decades, had been informed that her contract was not going to be renewed. Former Key West High School Principal John Welsh has been serving as temporary HR director with a contract that expires at the end of July.
From a short list of six applicants for the full-time job, Porter whittled the applicants down to three, including District Director of Accountability and Assessment Christina McPherson. One of the three, Mary Murray, dropped out of the process to take a job in Manatee County, leaving McPherson and Dawkins in the running.
Porter formally interviewed Dawkins on Saturday.
"Dr. Dawkins will bring fresh energy, perspective and best practices knowledge to the Monroe County Schools and will be an outstanding leader for implementation of our strategic plan and our vision to develop a truly high performing work force," Porter said, in his press release.
Should the board confirm him, which appears likely, he'll have a $95,025 contract from July 15 to June 30.
District 3 Board Member Ed Davidson, who has long been critical of district financial and hiring policies, was pleased with Porter's decision.
"The selection of a candidate with Ph.D level credentials in human resources and field experience in multiple other school districts is exactly the kind of help the school district needs, since all three of our former HR staff will be gone at the end of this month," Davidson said. "The new director will now have the opportunity and expertise to select appropriately experienced assistants, and train them to do a first-class job for all of our employees."
District 1 member Robin Smith-Martin concurred with Davidson.
"At this point in the district's transformation, fresh blood in HR is essential for objective hiring and accountability."
Also on Tuesday's agenda, is the renewal of a contract, and bonus for Bill Sprague, who has served as the district's "Owner's Representative" during the Horace O'Bryant School construction process.
Davidson on Monday questioned the need for the renewal, given that all that's left to do on the site is oversee the construction of a parking lot.
"The contract is a cap," Davidson conceded. "But at $150 per hour, times eight hours per week, times 52 weeks, results in an annualized salary of $62,400 per year, for working eight hours per week. I find it objectionable to be over-paying him to watch a parking lot grow, at the same $150 an hour rate we paid him to oversee the construction of an eight-building complex."
John Dick, representing District 4, voiced similar concerns.
"Why would we pay anywhere near that amount for a parking lot?" Dick asked. "We'll hash that out. I can understand that it's a renewal of his contract that calls for a maximum amount, I just hope we're not going to be paying the whole amount. The job came in on time and under budget. That to me is a good thing, the main driving force. It's just unfortunate that we have to dig after the fact. It gets to be a pain in the neck."
Both members also said they were wary of paying Sprague a percentage of the construction money saved by the district by way of the many "change orders" associated with the HOB project. That cost will amount to nearly $28,000.
Porter, however, said he felt that the time to debate the terms of Sprague's contract had passed.
"This is a contract that the board entered into with Mr. Sprague before I came aboard," Porter said. "It did have a savings split clause, and this is just the payout. It's becoming increasingly common that you see some sort of performance incentive built into contracts with owner-representatives, which are themselves fairly common in districts without a construction department, which we no longer have in Monroe County. As for the renewal, there still are some construction details, such as lighting, and a retaining wall. The parking lot sounds like a simple, straightforward project, but there is some detail that needs proper oversight from our perspective."
Another topic likely to generate debate at the meeting will be the issue of a line of credit, which district officials and board members alike have agreed there is a need for.
Porter has placed recommendation of a proposal by J.P. Morgan on the action agenda for approval.
"This is basically the best of the three alternatives we've examined," Porter said. "I believe we've had that conversation with the board. It's a bit of a philosophical/policy decision. How much risk do we want to assume?" he asked. "There was a cheaper option, if we didn't actually want to use the line of credit. We're recommending the more conservative option, which will be helpful if we do have to use the line of credit."
"That's true," Davidson said. "The whole point is that we might have to use it. The reason we need the line of credit is because we only have $2.5 million worth of coverage, for more than $300 million worth of buildings at risk. This is all the worse because we have a $10 million deductible, which we have to absorb, before the $2.5 million in actual coverage, begins, because we have no ability to self-fund the first $10 million in repairs, that's why we need the line of credit."