LAND O'LAKES — All Pasco school district employees will get a bonus or supplement check on Dec. 18, now that their contracts are approved.
Leaders of the United School Employees of Pasco announced late Monday that their membership had endorsed the 2009-10 agreement by large margins. The deal provides fully paid health benefits for all district staff, although not their family members, as well as a one-time payment in lieu of a raise or step increase. This is the second straight year without raises.
About two-thirds of the USEP's 8,507 represented workers cast ballots in the Nov. 19 ratification vote. Of them, 88 percent of teachers and 93 percent of school-related personnel (such as bus drivers and instructional aides) backed the contract.
"Let's face it, nobody is happy with this settlement," USEP president Lynne Webb said, noting that the financial offer fell far short of what the association had requested. "One of the best things we can do is keep on working on other things that are plaguing teachers and (school-related personnel) right now."
She mentioned the burden of too much paperwork as an example.
"We need to see what we can do to alleviate some of the pressures," Webb said.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she was glad to have a contract completed. It wasn't the offer she would have preferred to make, though.
"The contract reflects the economic time that we're in," Fiorentino said. "I would have certainly wished we would have been able to do more for our dedicated employees."
Board vice chairwoman Joanne Hurley said she was glad the district was able to give employees as much as it did.
"We're one of only a few districts in the state that was able to do anything meaningful for employees," Hurley said. "We were able to pay for insurance increases, which were enormous. We were able to give a bonus. We didn't have to lay off anybody. … I think what we did certainly was to the best of our ability."
The School Board approved the contract, pending USEP ratification, a week ago.
The contract complete, the sides next are slated to kick off a new round of talks. This time, the topics will be differentiated pay and early retirement annuities.
Pay plans in which some teachers make more than others based on their performance or job assignment rather than years of service have proven contentious in other places. Pasco has struggled in past years to implement performance pay plans that meet with teacher satisfaction.
The retirement annuity concept has received a warmer welcome from district employees, many of whom have said they would take advantage if offered such a deal. The board talked about the idea last summer but never ran with it after Fiorentino said she did not need to provide an incentive to reduce staffing levels to meet budget projections.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.