School district hires CCPD chief as first director of safety, security and emergency management
After a lengthy conversation and three board members opposing the superintendent’s recommendation, Cape Coral Police Department Chief of Police David Newlan was appointed as the new executive director of safety, security and emergency management for the Lee County School District.
“I, for one, am thrilled and confident he will prove the three of you wrong, and I say that in the nicest terms,” Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said after introducing Newlan to the board.
Newlan has accepted the position, which has a hiring date effective Dec. 1.
Those who opposed were Board Members Melisa Giovannelli, Gwyn Gittens and Betsy Vaughn.
Vaughn pulled the agenda item for discussion, saying she did not feel the district is in the position, whether budgeted or not, to add another executive position. The district is in a real bind with its teachers, she added.
“As we have more and more students that are going to be returning face-to-face in the classroom, we have openings. We have teachers that I have personally talked to that are quite literally at the end of their rope. They suffer migraine headaches, blood pressure problems, spend weekends working at trying to get caught up,” Vaughn said. “I worry about our teachers and worry about the fact that we are right now in negotiations. I want to keep as much money on the table that we can offer if we need to until the negotiations are done. I don’t have a problem with revisiting this after the new year and new semester after we see how we are doing with our teachers. After all, they are the backbone of our district. You can run a school without administrative personnel, but if you don’t have teachers there is no school.”
Given the salary of an executive director, and how many teachers they could pay or provide raises to with the same amount of money, prioritizing teachers is much more important than the new executive director position, she said.
“I find those things much more important. The start date for this is not until Dec. 1, so if this were such a pressing need and we’ve had this pandemic going on since last March, we could have actually gotten on this a lot earlier as we were making our initial changes in the school district, as we were making policy changes,” Vaughn said. “I do not want to spend one more nickel on creating jobs for upper level management until we get everything on equal keel and get our teachers taken care of and our supplemental employees.”
Board Attorney Kathy Dupuy-Bruno told the board that when the superintendent makes a recommendation for hire, they must accept the recommendation unless there is a good cause shown, such as moral turpitude, or a lack of professional qualification.
Gittens said her main issue is she would never approve a top level position during a pandemic in a district that is “too top heavy.” She said there are students who need additional help, as well as the need to hire more teachers and guidance counselors.
Giovannelli said she was told the salary of the new executive position was $100,000, but then heard through chatter that the compensation is really $170,000. She said she has a hard time during the middle of a pandemic, when they need money in the classroom, to support a position that supervises seven individuals.
“That amount of money can be used in the classroom and that is where it is needed at this time. I was not advised we had a need for safety and security. I’m not quite convinced we need this position at this time,” Giovannelli said. “There are government agencies that have hiring freezes during the pandemic. I don’t want to have another year of bargaining that we cannot pay our teachers and staff. That is where the money needs to be. I cannot support this because I was unaware there was a need for this position. Until I am convinced of that, I will not support this.”
Adkins said this is the time for the school district to grow into its size and understand when they are responsible for 95,000 students, they have to have a position of a composite nature that can actually coordinate an emergency response in a major situation across the district.
“We need someone that has the experience, skill and expertise to do this sort of thing. That is what the position is for,” he said. “We are in an environment that we are dealing with a pandemic, shooters, hurricanes, bomb threats and other student situations. This is a small, small investment. This thought that it is going to come to a saving grace of negotiations, that is simply not the case. The amount of money, this is not going to make a dent,” Adkins said, adding that it is about the security and safety of students and employees.
He said the district needs more than just a director of safety.
The agenda item was discussed prior to Tuesday night’s meeting in length during its Monday workshop.
Chief Human Resource Officer Angela Pruitt said job descriptions are created so they are available when, and if, a position is brought forward through the budget cycle, or through a means the district has.
“Approving a job description does not mean you approve the hiring of that position,” she explained. “The budget process is the primary way you approve a position and it exists within a budget.”
Adkins further explained that there are certain dollars allocated to the departments as part of the budget that is specific to the positions that are within that division.
“Appointment to the position is what gets approved. We have to make sure we have approval of the dollars and position before advertised and we fill a position,” Adkins said. “You have already approved as part of the structure in operations for a director position that was previously approved.
Pruitt said the executive director position was a line item in the fiscal year 2020 budget. What the school board is seeing now is a change in the job description.
“The reason you have a new job description that you approved, is they restructured the work. Money is there for the position, more than that because there is a lapse time (because we) have not been paying for that position for quite some time,” Pruitt said, adding that the money was not affected, rather the Human Resource Department because of the need of a new job description.
Pruitt said it is not as if Chief Operations Officer Dr. Ken Savage woke up and said he had to fill the position.
“He is very thoughtful and analytical, observing and watching the strengths of the team he did have. Now we know our gaps and here is the position and the knowledge skills and abilities we need to address that gap,” she said. “I’m going to say to you, (knowing) what we have experienced over the last six months, we have to have someone in that position. That is my own personal belief. It is necessary.”
Adkins said as a result of the pandemic, the district has reshuffled normal responsibilities.
“In terms of the need of an executive level position to handle the situation of this magnitude with the district of this size is important to us. Again it would allow some of the staff that had to take on the additional responsibilities go back to the responsibilities they really intended to conduct and the role they intended to have,” Adkins said. “The size of the district, not to have a person manage this would be a mistake, in my opinion.”
Savage said one of the most important aspects of this new position is the composite nature of their organization.
“One of the greatest challenges is so much of our work is funneled through various multitude of departments,” he said. “So, being able to work across that many departments with seamless coordination to respond to issues is something we have seen evidence of many instances that we have been through, most notably the pandemic. This is all precipitated at the time of the beginning of the pandemic and a clear awareness that a crisis of this scale is a dramatic challenge for our organization.”
Savage went on to say that, unfortunately, the work is far less efficiently done when done across many people who are not framed for that type of work, asking questions that a person with that expertise in this particular area can hit the ground running.
“Despite the fact that all of us are working very, very hard, when you have people with the documented skill set and tremendous experience in this particular area, that allows them to work even more efficiently and effectively from day one,” he said. “We (chiefs) had to meet every single day for most of our day to work through all of these issues month by month as I’m sure many others did in the (other) districts. This executive role allows that person to lead that effort and bring that level of expertise to our team to allow us to be more effective and efficient.”
The position was advertised in September. There were 89 candidates, 42 of which met the desired qualifications. There were three final candidates that emerged from that pool with Newlan ultimately selected to fill the position.
The salary range for an executive director position within the district is $102,000 to $128,000 annually. Now that the position has been approved, HR will determine the compensation rate.