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Make collaboration more than a buzz word, Pasco employee union leader tells School Board



As Florida works to change its teacher contracts and evaluations, collaboration has become a key catch phrase for school district officials and employee leaders.

United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb told the School Board on Tuesday that collaboration must be more than a word.

"Actions must match words," Webb said. "And it can't be focused on one particular area. ... It has to be comprehensive, broad based. And there has to be respect for the bargaining process. And I have to be truthful with you. I don't feel that is happening here now."

She gave two specific examples.

First, Webb said, the administration has requested to begin negotiations on a 2011-12 contract even while the 2010-11 talks remain at impasse. Second, she said, many middle and high school teachers are complaining that the administration is telling them that they will be teaching six periods of six next year, instead of the current five, and that negotiations just don't matter.

"I can give you other examples. There are minor examples that happen every day," she said. "But these are two major examples, and ones that have our members upset."

She urged the School Board to instruct the administration to respect the bargaining process "in deeds and words," and not to look for loopholes to impose the district's will. "Show your appreciation for the union because we are, whether you like it or not, the voice of the teachers and the SRP."

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino responded that any administrator presenting budget matters to teachers, including the idea of having secondary teachers instruct six periods a day, make clear that the issue remains subject to negotiations. She also defended the request for talks on next year's contract, seeing as the district faces a budget shortfall of $47 million or more. 

Because many ideas for spending cuts do require agreement from the USEP, extra time is needed, she said. "We do believe it is prudent .. to start negotiating with our staff."

Board members did not comment.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 10:23am]


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