Thu, Jul 25, 2024
Florida parents push for pause to superintendent negotiations

Florida parents push for pause to superintendent negotiations

  • PublishedJune 7, 2024

There’s an offer and counteroffer on the table for Christopher Bernier, but some parents are worried about the federal discrimination lawsuits he’s listed in.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County parents are pushing for a pause in contract negotiations between the public school district and the new superintendent.

Right now, there’s an offer and counteroffer on the table for Christopher Bernier to become the next leader of the school system, but some parents say concerns over two federal lawsuits and Bernier’s abrupt resignation as superintendent in Lee County is casting a shadow over the issue.

“Outrageous” is a word one parent used to describe the $350,000 salary Bernier requested while the district is dealing with major budget shortfalls.

“I have done my research and we do not want him!” said Larry Henderson, a Duval County Public Schools great-grandparent.

“We need to take pause and make sure that we are selecting the right superintendent,” said Travis Akers, a parent who describes himself as an education advocate.

Bernier requested the highest salary possible for the job, $350,000. The district countered with $280,000 and up to $20,000 in bonuses if certain goals are reached. The previous superintendent made $300,000.  

One thousand dollars a month for his car and $50,000 a year for a mentor are two items Bernier asked for that the school district didn’t agree to.

“It’s very tone deaf to me as both a public school parent and a taxpayer, for someone to ask for such high compensation when teachers right now are at home and worried about what their future will be because they don’t know if they’re gonna have a job in August,” Akers said.

Bernier, who was the superintendent in Lee County before he abruptly resigned, is named as a defendant in two federal discrimination lawsuits against Lee County schools that allege the school district mishandled a situation involving a racist text message. 

For Henderson, this is a dealbreaker.

“Stop the negotiations!” Henderson said.

School board members said Bernier went through a thorough background check. Duval County parent Elizabeth Sizler is less worried.

“I’m hoping that they did their due diligence and that that won’t be a distraction,” Sizler said. 

Bernier would start the job July 1, according to the contracts.

“I feel like because we’re so close to July 1 we need to find a way to make something work,” said Sizler.

First Coast News asked DCPS if pausing negotiations is something they would consider. Board members did not respond before our deadline, but a DCPS spokesperson said he can’t speak to what the board might do in the future, but pausing has not been discussed and right now the process is moving forward.

Bernier did not respond to First Coast News‘s requests for an interview.

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