Pasco administration, employees prepare for contract talks
Officials from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco have begun planning for what they hope will be short but productive contract negotiations beginning Monday.
The individual teams are meeting separately to review priorities before heading to the table. USEP president Kenny Blankenship said he didn't want to make many commitments until he sees what the district is offering.
He expected a small raise offer, based on increases in state funding of around 3 percent, as well as strong pushes from the district on early retirement benefits and tobacco-free schools. Blankenship said his membership had not shown much inclination to budge on the current rules that allow some schools to ban tobacco and others to keep it until the staff votes it out.
"A lot of nonsmokers stood up and said they don't know why they would take away a right of someone who is not breaking the law," he said.
Blankenship said he did plan to push for district support of professional development for general education teachers who need recertification in special education.
District employee relations director Betsy Kuhn said she did not anticipate the early days of negotiations to cover any controversial ground, instead focusing on ground rules and talks about longstanding agreements that require annual renewal. She figured discussions about money and teacher evaluations, among other items, would come later in the summer.
Kuhn did express a desire to get the contract concluded so that employees will know their pay and work conditions as close to the start of the work year, which begins Aug. 11, as possible. The negotiations are set to run through Aug. 7.