Volusia’s Teachers’ Union President Wants Superintendent Out

By on October 18, 2018 in WNDB News

UPDATE (10-19-18): Volusia County Schools Superintendent Tom Russell has released the following statement.

“I care deeply about this district and I care deeply about the people in it. And I want the best for them. No one wanted a deal more than me. I look forward to working with the new union leadership.”

Earlier reporting below.

Daytona Beach, FL – It’s a matter of trust. A serious lack of it.

That’s what the head of Volusia County’s teachers’ union cites as one of the main reasons he wants the county’s schools superintendent removed right away in the wake of another failed attempt from both sides to reach a long-term contract agreement.

During a press conference this afternoon (October 18th) at Volusia United Educators headquarters, VUE President Andrew Spar says the School Board has to step up and force district officials to start fixing the serious issues plaguing the school district, including overall low morale from teachers, staff and administrators.

“Four years ago, 56% of our elementary schools were rated A or B,” Spar added. “Today, only 28% of our elementary schools are rated A or B. We believe that is a direct correlation to the decisions – or lack thereof – that have been made in Volusia County Schools.”

Spar’s push to have Volusia County Schools Superintendent James “Tom” Russell removed from his post is based in part on the contract negotiations, which came to a halt last week when the district’s negotiating team declared impasse for the third time in four years.

An impasse declaration means that the Volusia County School Board will unilaterally decide what teachers will receive for pay and benefits this school year, with negotiations set to resume sometime in 2019.

Spar says progress was made in many key areas – including salary, benefits and resources – during a marathon bargaining session just prior to the impasse declaration and he blames the district’s negotiators for not having the conviction to seal the deal at the very end.

“[Russell] has been superintendent for four years and he has declared impasse three times,” Spar noted. “Impasse was declared three times over the last 26 years prior to him being superintendent.”

With a group of union members literally behind him during the 30-minute press conference, Spar challenged the district’s claim that there wasn’t a need for teachers, that the lack of money for increasing salaries and providing textbooks and other material support is at the feet of the Florida Department of Education and that the School Board hasn’t backed up its talk of making things better.

“This is a complete failure,” Spar continued. “This is an abandonment of the teachers and staff in Volusia County. This is an abandonment of the students in Volusia County.”

Spar took pains during the conference to not attack Russell personally, saying numerous times that he felt Russell’s heart was in the right place but that he was not acting effectively as a leader and allowing too much micromanagement of teachers at the classroom level.

“[Teachers] want to be empowered to be able to help every child in our district and they aren’t right now,” Spar said. “And that’s why we’re saying it’s time for the school board to be bold, to step up and to bring about a leadership change.”

Despite taking on a new role as Vice-President of the Florida Education Association, Spar pledged to stay in place until this round of negotiations is done.

WNDB has reached out to Volusia County Schools for its response. We’ll update this article once that happens.

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