TAMPA — Members of the Hillsborough County teachers union have voiced strong approval for a new contract, officials said Monday.
Some 96 percent of voting teachers supported the proposal while 97 percent of non-teaching staff did so, said Nick Whitman, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
The contract, if approved today by the School Board, would mark the first union vote on the district's seven-year, $202 million reform effort with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Teachers will for the first time be evaluated by a new corps of peer evaluators and mentors drawn from the teaching ranks starting this fall. They will be judged under a new, more nuanced evaluation system, and in 2013 new teachers' pay will be determined by student test scores as well as peer and principal evaluations.
Under that system, teachers will no longer be paid more for advanced degrees. New teachers will receive a one-time reimbursement for a master's and a doctoral degree, based on the in-state average cost of those degrees. Veteran teachers who opt to join the performance-based salary system will be reimbursed a pro-rated amount.
The proposed contract gives most teachers a 2 percent "step increase" on their current salary scale, with those at the top getting a $1,000 increase.
It also includes 14 early-release days for teacher planning and meetings in the coming year, as well as a half-day on the last day of school. While that's no different than last year's calendar, some parents have opposed such days, calling them disruptive, and candidates have raised the issue during the campaign for open School Board seats.
Parents and students also raised concerns about the lateness of spring break, which doesn't come until April 25 under the new calendar. District officials said they needed the extra time to prepare students for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but offered a four-day weekend on March 18 to provide a mid-spring rest. That arrangement, too, is part of the proposed contract with teachers.
Electronic voting by union members concluded Sunday at midnight, officials said.