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2000 Opinions

Date:   January 18, 2000
Prepared By:   Ronald G. Stowers
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   00-01
Staff Contact:   Ronald G. Stowers
TO:   Mr. Robert H. Berntson, Batsel, McKinley, Ittersagen, Gunderson & Berntsson, P.A.
FROM:   Ronald G. Stowers
SUBJECT:   Legal Opinion--Florida School Recognition Program, Section 231.2905, Florida Statutes--Definition of the Terms "Faculty" and "Staff"
RE:   Letter of December 16, 1999

QUESTIONS PRESENTED: May Florida School Recognition Program funds received pursuant to Section 231.2905, Florida Statutes, be used to provide bonuses to school staff who are not employees of the school board?

CONCLUSION: Our answer is a qualified "Yes."

It is our opinion that bonuses resulting from the Florida School Recognition program provided at Section 231.2905, Florida Statutes, may be awarded to the faculty or staff or a school regardless of an individual's actual employer, so long as the committee composed of the school staff and school advisory council determines that such individuals may receive the bonus and so long as the individuals are not otherwise precluded from accepting the bonuses.

BACKGROUND: The Charlotte County School Board (school board) and the Charlotte County Sheriff (sheriff) have entered into an agreement pursuant to Section 230.2318, Florida Statutes, concerning the school district's School Resource Officer Program. In short, in exchange for a fee, the sheriff provides a specified number of deputies (sworn law enforcement officers) to staff the program at various school sites which are under the jurisdiction of the school board. The deputies or school resource officers (SROs) are employees of the sheriff and subject to the chain of command established by the sheriff; however, the principal of the school at which an SRO is stationed directs the day-to-day activities of the SRO.

DISCUSSION: The 1999 Legislature enacted Section 231.2905, Florida Statutes, creating the Florida School Recognition Program. Schools that sustain high performance or demonstrate exemplary improvement based on criteria established by the Commissioner of Education may qualify for financial awards. Those funds are "distributed to the school's fiscal agent and placed in the school's account and must be used as determined by the school's staff and school advisory council for bonuses to the faculty and staff or for educational equipment or materials for the school." Section 231.2905(3), Florida Statutes.

School boards have great discretion in the management, control, operation, administration, and supervision of the schools under their jurisdiction. Section 230.03, Florida Statutes. This discretion includes how the programs and services available at various school sites shall be staffed. Throughout the state, school boards have adopted various approaches to met staffing needs. Some districts employ all personnel, while others contract with outside entities to provide necessary services. Some services for which school boards routinely contract include custodial and food service, transportation, exceptional student education, and school resource officers.

The Legislature intended that the committee established at each school determine how the funds awarded are utilized within the categories articulated in the statute. In addition to using the funds for educational equipment or materials, the funds may be used for bonuses to "faculty and staff." Neither the term "faculty," nor the term "staff," is defined by statute. Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary (1984) defines "faculty" to include, "a body of instructors as distinguished from their students." Additionally, it defines "staff" to include "a group of assistants who aid an executive or direction." Because of the different staffing practices of school boards, the statute does not limit the ability of the committee to award bonuses to only school board employees. Therefore, it is our opinion that so long as the person receiving the bonus is (or was during the period for which the award was received) a member of the faculty or staff of the school as a result of his or her employment by the school board or his or her assignment to the school as a result of a contract between the school board and his or her employer, the committee may award a bonus to the individual if it desires. However, whether any particular member of the faculty or staff of a school employed by an outside entity, such as an SRO, may actually accept the bonus due to statutory or contractual restraints unrelated to Section 231.2905, Florida Statutes, is a question which should be posed to the faculty or staff member's actual employer.

If you have additional questions or concerns you may telephone me at (850) 488-7707.


Ronald G. Stowers


cc: Dr. John Stewart
Betty Coxe
Dr. John Wiegman

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