Pasco contract negotiations begin amid optimism
The United School Employees of Pasco and the Pasco school district administration kicked off 2013-14 contract negotiations this week with some expectation that they can complete their task before teachers and staff return to work in August.
"I think we have a shot," said Betsy Kuhn, the district's employee relations director and lead negotiator. "I think we'll wrap up much sooner than we have in the past few years."
USEP president Lynne Webb was more cautious in her prognosis, focusing more on the complications that must be ironed out, such as the impact of changes to media center jobs. "It's hard to say, since we haven't had our opening session for instructional," she said. "I'm hoping we can, too."
The sides began talks on the school-related employee contract Monday with several agreements on existing memoranda of understanding, including such issues as electronic job ads and indoor air quality. A few MOU's remain outstanding, such as employee dress code and school choice.
The district also provided the USEP with a specific salary schedule for these employees, so the discussions can begin in earnest about the financial proposal for that contract. The sides return to the table on Wednesday.
Bargaining over the teachers' contract was delayed Tuesday because some negotiating team members could not attend. Some informal talks have taken place in advance, though, and Webb said there had been "a lot of positive, open sharing." The formal opening session is scheduled for Thursday.
The administration has said it wants to provide raises for all employees. The details must be set, though. Other districts, such as Volusia, have stumbled over finding a plan agreeable to both sides. The governor's office has issued guidelines to help districts allocate funds the Legislature set aside specifically for raises.
"I think we're going to make some good progress pretty fast," Kuhn said.