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Plans to extend school day at Gibbs High put on hold

LARGO — Pinellas school officials have delayed a plan to start extending the school day at Gibbs High School next week after negotiations stalled on how to compensate teachers for the extra work.

In an automated phone message to parents Thursday night, Gibbs principal Kevin Gordon reported that the anticipated start date for the new schedule would now be Oct. 18.

School officials had hoped to start on Wednesday lengthening the school day by one class period, part to of an effort to boost student performance at the academically troubled school.

Students would attend eight classes instead of seven, with school continuing to begin at 7:05 a.m. but end at 2:25 p.m. on most days instead of 1:50 p.m.

"Disappointed," is the word both school officials and teachers union representatives used Thursday after close to 41/2 hours of negotiations.

"We were trying to settle it tonight," said Steve Swartzel, lead bargainer for the school district.

Under the lengthened schedule, Gibbs teachers would be required to teach one more class and log 81/2-hour days — an hour longer than teachers at other schools work.

The district proposed giving teachers a 14 percent raise for their extra time and effort. Under the same plan, teachers in the school's arts magnet program would get a $1,500 supplement since they already are paid 14 percent more for extra time spent working with students.

That was on top of a $1,000 supplement the district agreed to offer teachers at Gibbs and three other schools — Lakewood, Dixie Hollins and Boca Ciega high schools — all under state oversight due to poor student test performance.

The union, whose bargaining team included four Gibbs teachers, asked for a 21 percent increase — 14 percent for the additional work hour and 7 percent as a recognition of the additional workload that comes with planning another class.

Additionally, teachers want to use all but two hours a week of their designated planning time for planning alone — instead of being required to attend meetings. In exchange, teachers would waive the $1,500 supplement for the arts magnet teachers.

Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Kim Black called the district's offer of 14 percent "a low-ball offer."

"The teachers already heard from the superintendent's mouth 15 percent," Black said.

Superintendent Julie Janssen visited the Gibbs faculty in August, almost as soon as word broke that the state Department of Education had put it on its list of schools in "intervene status" due to five years of poor student test performance.

Teachers who attended said they heard Janssen offer them additional support, including a 15 percent salary increase.

"We know the constraints of the district, but at the same time you have to pay for what you're doing," said Marshall Ogletree, executive director for PCTA.

Added Black: "The ball's in their court."

After the teachers union presented its counter offer, Swartzel said it was too far from the district's proposal that he had nothing he could counter at that point. "We weren't playing games with 14 percent," Swartzel said.

He remained hopeful that the two sides can reach an agreement soon, but he left the bargaining table Thursday without a firm time they would try again.

"It'll be resolved," Swartzel said, "one way or another."

Plans to extend school day at Gibbs High put on hold 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 11:05pm]
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