Sunday, December 17, 2017
Education

Pinellas teachers reject contract in Thursday vote

Teachers across the Pinellas County school district voted Thursday to reject a controversial proposed contract for this year, sending negotiators back to the bargaining table.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association counted 5,427 ballots cast at 139 work sites, and 77 percent, or 4,188 teachers, voted to reject the agreement. The union represents about 7,600 teachers.

Union president Mike Gandolfo attributed the outcome to an email last week by deputy superintendent Bill Corbett, one of the school district's chief negotiators. Corbett alluded to teacher concerns over certain passages of the contract, but said teachers risked losing a planned raise averaging 4 percent if they voted down the agreement.

Union leaders took that as a threat and blasted Corbett.

Gandolfo, who previously declined to comment about contract details, conceded Thursday he was unaware of many of the language changes that teachers later lashed out over when he signed off on the proposal Oct. 8.

"I might've been a little too trusting at the table," he said. Referring to district negotiators, he added: "They were slick and I was inexperienced."

Gandolfo said he would call the district today to restart bargaining. For now, the district and teachers will default to the current contract, restoring key paragraphs that many teachers didn't want to lose.

Corbett responded to the results in an emailed statement.

"We respect and value our teachers' input," he wrote. "We now look ahead to continued conversation and bargaining with PCTA in a good faith effort to arrive at the best possible contract for teachers in Pinellas County Schools."

A separate contract for the Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association, which bargains for 2,556 paraprofessionals such as teachers aides, was also up for a ratification vote Thursday. But the outcome was different. Out of 1,545 ballots cast, 88 percent voted to ratify the contract — an unprecedented turnout. Members of PESPA will get an average 4 percent raise.

"We've been fighting with the district for almost five years because of the pay scale," said PESPA president Nelly Henjes.

Bruce Proud, executive director of both unions, said the different outcomes spoke to importance of the contract language to the teachers.

"It's indicative that salary and benefits were similar in nature," he said. "It was the working conditions that the teachers saw as being objectionable."

Despite the prospect of a raise, teachers overwhelmingly sided with their faculty representative council, which recommended a no vote. That council's chair, Christine York-Amstutz, wrote an email Nov. 6 that summarized the council's decision and its key concerns — ranging from the omission of language regarding physical education teachers and guidance counselors to a change in first-year teachers' eligibility for extended leave.

In addition, the contract made no changes regarding planning time, the top gripe among teachers, she said.

"We were really happy to see that we had such a strong number of teachers that saw that this was important enough to vote on," she said.

Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Twitter: @Colleen_Wright.

Comments
Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

TAMPA — A high-ranking University of South Florida Health official has resigned amid internal concerns that he was giving special treatment to his assistant.After an internal investigation, USF System President Judy Genshaft was poised last month to ...
Published: 12/15/17
Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

TAMPA — A months-long conflict over planned pay raises has moved to a new phase with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association declaring a bargaining impasse with the public school district.The two sides, which began negotiations in late spring...
Published: 12/15/17
Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursemen...
Published: 12/15/17
Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school’s science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.Thursday was just their second time in the lab this y...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

TAMPA — Elementary school students programmed an electronic mouse to make its way through a maze.Middle school students directed an electronic vehicle to stop on a dime, then use its arms to locate and lift a tiny cube.When the demonstration was done...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17