Pinellas school custodian will get 29th chance to improve job performance
After a lengthy discussion, the Pinellas County School Board voted 6-1 today to demote -- but not fire -- a head plant operator who has been written up by his bosses 28 times in 20 years. The reason: the district's progressive discipline policy.
Twenty of Scott Long's 28 writeups were "conference summaries," which is among the lowest forms of disciplinary action in the district's arsenal. Three were reprimands, and none were suspensions. Several board members said they were voting in favor of demotion because the district's progressive discipline policy requires that a progressively heavier penalty be applied each time -- except in the most egregious cases -- and that leaps not be made to the most severe penalties.
Board member Linda Lerner noted that Long has lost about $20,000 since he was given an unpaid suspension June 17, and that his demotion will cost him about $11,000 a year. "That is a punishment," she said. And it's appropriate, she continued, "because there really wasn't progressive discipline used here."
"I will support this hesitantly," said board member Mary Brown, referring to the recommendation to demote. "I have to put responsibility on our process."
Board member Robin Wikle was the lone dissenter. "Tenure entitlement has got to stop," she said.
"There's 28 conference referrals regarding this employee," she continued. "And that right there is a problem in itself, that we can write that many referrals and not go to the next step."
Long has been written up for tardiness, absenteeism and insubordination, and his evaluations have repeatedly pointed to shortcomings in quantity of work, quality of work and "initiative." Many of the complaintsare from teachers. One said it took Long over a month to mount a pencil sharpener. Another said she quit asking Long for help, "due to the fact he has never been reliable." A different employee complained that he took too long to change some light bulbs.
"Left Scott a note to change them on 4/25. When I arrived at work on 4/28 -- lights still out -- Scott said he was sweeping, would get to them later. I said no, you need to get them changed now. He sighed and 10 minutes later returned with bulbs."