Pasco teacher contract negotiations about to heat up
Teacher unions around the state have begun settling their contracts, many with raises. Palm Beach teachers are looking at $1,500 bumps. Pinellas teachers are getting about 1.5 percent. Even teachers in tiny Walton County are getting bonuses and step increases.
Representatives for Pasco County teachers and the school district have yet to put any numbers on the table for debate. But that appears soon to change.
The School Board has scheduled an closed-door meeting for Tuesday, specifically to discuss contract talks. Jim Ciadella, lead negotiator for the United School Employees of Pasco, is expecting a bargaining session within a week or so. He told the Gradebook that the delay in talks, though frustrating, was deliberate.
"Quite frankly, we wanted to wait for Mr. Browning to take over," Ciadella said.
Kurt Browning took over as superintendent of schools on Nov. 20. USEP leaders are hoping that his comments about budget efficiencies and improving morale will translate into setting teacher pay increases as a priority. Though encouraged, they understand the talks won't be easy.
District finance officials are still suggesting the need for furlough days, which the School Board already has enshrined it its current year budget. Without those unpaid days, they say, the district could wind up with a revenue shortfall. Ciadella said he will head to the table aiming to get some financial improvements for the teachers, who have had their pay frozen for five years even as the cost of living — and the work demands made of them — have increased.
With more than 5,000 teachers, the Pasco school district is the county's largest employer. Stay tuned.