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Hernando schools, teachers union tentatively agree on $3.8M in raises

Jo Ann Hartge, union president, says both sides moved.

Jo Ann Hartge, union president, says both sides moved.

BROOKSVILLE — It took months of back-and-forth negotiations and a marathon session on Thursday, but the Hernando County School District and the teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to distribute roughly $3.8 million in raise money from the state.

Under the plan, Hernando teachers will see an average jump of $1,746 for the current 2013-14 school year, with a range of $1,625 to $1,875.

That amounts to roughly a 3.7 percent increase and gives district teachers the lion's share of the money for raises. The rest, an amount that was still being calculated late Thursday night, will be distributed to charter schools and school-based administrators.

These raises come on top of the $1.8 million in automatic step raises doled out in September, said Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services.

In all, the district's 1,655 teachers stand to see a roughly 5 percent pay bump, she said.

"I think this might work out to be one of the best settlements in the state," said Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Jo Ann Hartge.

For much of Thursday's seven-hour bargaining session, it didn't appear as though the two sides would reach a compromise. The teachers union initially proposed a raise that would have required the district to kick in about $600,000. The district shot that down, so the union came back with a massaged proposal.

"There was movement on both sides and a lot of good talk," Hartge said.

Despite the raises, the plan is expected to get a mixed reaction from district teachers, many of whom were expecting a larger jump.

Gov. Rick Scott initially proposed a plan to give every classroom teacher in Florida a $2,500 raise. Although the district didn't receive enough money to do that, the number stuck in the minds of teachers.

The proposal still needs to go to the union for ratification and the School Board and state Department of Education for approval.

If all that happens as projected, the school district's Martin estimates teachers will see the money in their April 21 paycheck.

She called the agreement a "huge" development.

But the money is just a part of it.

The district and union also tentatively agreed on a new salary schedule that will set the stage for performance pay in the 2014-15 school year.

That's a big deal.

Hernando County teachers have long received pay raises based on their experience.

This proposal, starting during the current school year, creates a single salary schedule. Next year, all returning employees would move up that schedule based on performance evaluations. The exact amount would be subject to negotiation.

The teachers union and district both lauded this salary schedule, saying it is fiscally responsible and gives teachers greater earning potential over the long haul.

The union stressed that the proposal is an attempt to adhere to a new law that mandates the creation of performance pay. It also said that creating one salary schedule will protect teachers with "professional service contracts," commonly known as teacher tenure.

But the proposal is somewhat surprising for a teachers union, a group that traditionally resisted tying pay to performance because of a lack of funding and alleged flaws in the methods for evaluating teachers.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando schools, teachers union tentatively agree on $3.8M in raises 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:33pm]
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