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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

A broken promise at Gibbs High?



Second update at 2:21 p.m. Thursday: The district emailed a response to us this afternoon. We included it at the end of the post.

Update at 2:39 p.m.: PCTA-PESPA executive director Marshall Ogletree emailed us additional comments this afternoon, which we've attached at the end of the post.

Gibbs High teachers got 17 percent pay hikes this year. The principal is getting a $5,000 bonus. The assistant principals are getting $2,000 extra.

The paraprofessionals and secretaries? Not so much.

They’re fuming - and blaming Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen.

Gibbs support staff say Janssen promised them extra pay – just like she did for the teachers - and then reneged. Many are getting paid an extra half hour per day at their usual rate, but they are not getting a bonus or a deal like the teachers.

“What would the school do if we didn’t show up? Would it run?” office clerk Donna Hearn, the representative at Gibbs for the support workers union, told The Gradebook. “So why aren’t we important?”

The school has 33 workers in the unit represented by the Pinellas Education Support Personnel Assocation, said Marshall Ogletree, who is executive director of both that union and the teachers union. Other Gibbs employees in plant maintenance and the cafeteria are represented by a third union.

Just before the holiday break, Ogletree sent district officials written statements from six support employees that detailed what they heard when Janssen met with Gibbs staff in August.

According to them, Janssen told staff that because the school was now under increased state oversight, its employees would have to put in more time. But the extra work would come with a $1,000 retention bonus and a 15 percent pay raise, she said.

When a support worker asked during the meeting if support staff would also get that deal, Janssen said yes, it would be across the board, according to the statements.

The Gradebook emailed the district yesterday morning, asking why support staff were not given the extra money as promised. As of 6:30 p.m. last night, we did not get a reply. If we do, we’ll add it to this post.

After bargaining with the district, Gibbs teachers received a 17 percent pay hike in return for working an extra hour and teaching an extra period.

Hearn said the district would not bargain with PESPA. She said legal action would cost too much.

The support workers’ “faith in the district has been shaken,” Ogletree wrote in an email to district officials. “I feel that some economic consideration by the district is important especially in light of the administration getting even greater incentives than $1,000.”

He continued: “On another note, I certainly hope all staff are included in the A+ money. I know statute directs those funds and outlines the decision process but this would be a second ‘insult’ to this group of dedicated employees.”

Update: Ogletree emailed the following additional information to The Gradebook this afternoon: "The district argued that we did not bargain because hourly employees will be paid for the hours they work and in accordance to the Fair Labor Standards Act. PESPA ensured that this was applied to every PESPA member. A few members were given job upgrades because they were doing additional tasks."

"The only remaining issue has been the bonus given teachers and administrators through the SIG grant. We investigated whether or not the district engaged in an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) but even if successful there was no financial remedy. The cost of legal action made no sense when the outcome, at best, was a slap on the wrist for the district. The decision was not made due to the fiscal issue but the prudence of going further in the process. The hearing officer would have to judge whose testimony was more credible. I was not at the meeting so have no firsthand information about words chosen by the Superintendent but district officials did not agree with our PESPA members."

Second update: District spokeswoman Andrea Zahn emailed this response to The Gradebook a little bit ago: "Dr. Janssen's comments were directed to instructional staff members at Gibbs High School about an intent to bargain extra compensation for extra work in support of the Principal's turnaround efforts. Several educational support personnel who were in attendance understood Dr. Janssen's comments to applied to them, and understood that a commitment was being made without regard to the collective bargaining process that has been in place in this district for years."
"The protocol for bargaining in this district is well-established.  The Superintendent does not bargain directly - her representative does so along with a number of committee members.  Tentative agreements are reached with union counterparts and those tentative agreements are presented to the school board and union membership for ratification."
"Other district officials in attendance attest to the fact that the only assurance Dr. Janssen gave was to bargain extra compensation for extra work."  

[Last modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 4:19pm]


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