Pinellas middle school teachers have begun to file formal complaints over a controversial change in their schedules, bringing a long-simmering dispute to a head.
The faculties at Azalea and Palm Harbor middle schools filed grievances this week with the district's human resources department, and officials with the Pinellas teachers union say more schools will join them soon.
"I expect lots of them," said Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.
The filings start a chain of events that could end with an arbitrator settling the dispute.
The schedule change increases the number of periods in middle schools from six to seven, starting when classes resume Tuesday. It also calls on teachers to teach six of the seven periods.
That's an increase from the five periods they had been teaching, and the district isn't offering extra pay. The change also violates the district's contract with the union, which states middle and high school faculty are to teach no more than five periods.
District officials acknowledge the violation, but say a state budget crisis forced them into the schedule, which saves the system about $2.8-million.
They also say the added period was a key component of reforming middle schools, in part by allowing more room in the schedule for electives.
Moore said it was unlikely the grievances would be settled at the district level, and that an aribrator would likely be called on to settle the matter.
The timetable calls for an arbitration hearing some time this fall.