Showdown over Pinellas middle school schedules
The Pinellas teachers union and the school district are in a serious standoff over the new seven-period middle school schedule.
Superintendent Julie Janssen (left) has taken a hard stand, saying in a letter that she will not return to the old six-period day when the second semester starts Jan. 20, even though an arbitrator ordered the district to do so.
“That’s a problem for us,” said Mark Herdman, the union’s lawyer. “They can’t just ignore us and ignore the arbitrator. It doesn’t work that way.”
If Janssen goes through with her plan next Tuesday, the union will sue the district, Herdman and union president Kim Black told The Gradebook today. The papers have been drawn up and are ready to be filed, Herdman said.
Stuck in the middle: about 22,000 middle school students. Their class schedules could be in for a major change next semester -– or not.
At issue is a new schedule started in August that lengthened the middle school day by 14 minutes, added a seventh period and required teachers to teach six classes instead of the maximum of five called for in the contract. Students had one more class, and all of their classes were a few minutes shorter.
District officials said the change would save $2.2-million during a budget crisis. It also makes room, they said, for state-mandated PE and remedial courses for struggling students. They also said they wanted more room for elective courses to get middle school students more interested in school.
After teachers filed grievances, arbitrator Christopher M. Shulman ruled Nov. 26 that the new schedule violated the teachers’ contract and he ordered the old six-period schedule to be restored for the second semester.
More negotiations followed, then Janssen decided last week that returning to the old schedule would be too disruptive to students. Among her concerns: The change would occur just before FCAT testing in February and March. She also warned that some teachers could lose their jobs if the old schedule returned.
School Board attorney Jim Robinson said a lawsuit would be “unfortunate” because the district “remains willing and eager” to keep bargaining toward an agreement.