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Pinellas teachers will be asked to continue discussing a plan for early Wednesday releases

LARGO — A majority of Pinellas School Board members agreed Tuesday to ask the teachers union if it would continue discussing in bargaining sessions a plan to release students early every Wednesday.

In a nonbinding vote, four members agreed to ask the district's representative in the collective bargaining process to find out if the union would consider modifications to the controversial plan.

But nothing is likely to change for the coming school year, and possibly even the next, cautioned School Board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea.

"We're not touching the contract," she said. "All we're doing is continuing the discussion."

Union president Kim Black said the union bargains all year long, so continuing the conversation about the early release day would be just that: a conversation.

"The only thing both parties are saying now is that we will continue to look at the data as we move forward," Black said.

But board member Mary Brown argued against the idea.

"If you're asking the union to look at how we can solve something that we have already voted on, you're going backward," Brown said. "For this board to make that decision is irresponsible."

The board voted 4-3 on May 19 to ratify the teachers' contract, and along with it, a provision that would provide dedicated planning time for teachers on Wednesdays. Since then, board members have heard from parents and teachers who say they were caught off guard by the early release day.

Earlier this week, O'Shea suggested that rather than altering student schedules, the teachers' day could be adjusted. Students would have the same amount of instructional time, and teachers would work the same number of contractual hours.

That plan, which could be implemented on a school-by-school basis, is an example of what might come out of a continued discussion, O'Shea said.

Regardless of whether the union agrees to revisit the issue, School Board attorney Jim Robinson said, it's important to remember that the district has entered into a binding contract.

"We are parties to a collective bargaining agreement," Robinson said. "If there are any changes to it, it will be through the collaborative bargaining process."

Donna Winchester can be reached at winchester@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8413.

Pinellas teachers will be asked to continue discussing a plan for early Wednesday releases 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 10:32pm]
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