Pasco superintendent, teachers union look for common ground in workload grievance
Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco sat with superintendent Kurt Browning this week to discuss the future of their complaints that elementary teachers had been overburdened with testing, meetings, paperwork and other assignments beyond what their contracts require.
They walked away feeling more comfortable that a solution might be reached without having to appeal former superintendent Heather Fiorentino's November rejection of their grievance to the School Board. Both the USEP and the administration have agreed to hold the union's formal appeal of Fiorentino's ruling in abeyance while they look for common ground.
"He was very open to listen," USEP negotiator Jim Ciadella told the Gradebook. "I think he's going to challenge some of the processes that have been in place. ... We hope there is some flexibility on his side."
Ciadella looked to new Duval superintendent Nikolai Vitti as a possible example of how to proceed. Vitti, who recently took over the Duval district, eliminated several district-mandated tests as one of his first acts. He also has called for less time in meetings and more time focusing on student achievement.
"We're hoping that Mr. Browning will look at the bigger picture and do something similar to what Mr. Vitti did," Ciadella said. "That superintendent felt empowered to do what he thought is right, and to my knowledge nobody has challenged him."
Browning told the Gradebook before his meeting with the USEP that he wants to ease the burden on teachers if it's possible. He said he would sit with his leadership team to assess requirements coming from the state and federal government, and compare those to what the district imposes itself.
"Teachers need to be able to teach," he said.
Still, Browning cautioned, depending on what he learns, "We might end up in the same place that the former superintendent ended."
Ciadella said the USEP was hoping to get an answer from Browning next week about what the next steps might be.