Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Education

Pinellas County teachers get raises, give up early-release Wednesday

After months of stalled salary negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a tentative agreement with the teachers union that would give teachers a pay raise and put an end to early-release Wednesday a year from now.

The pay bumps, which are based on years of experience, will range from $300 to $5,000, with most of the district's 7,800 teachers on the low end. The increases are effective Nov. 1.

The agreement comes two weeks into the new school year and after what union leaders termed the longest period of negotiations in the district's history. Pinellas was the last school district in the Tampa Bay area to settle its contract.

In Hillsborough County, teachers got experience-based raises and a cost-of-living boost, costing that district about $29 million. Pasco County's teachers received no raise and took furlough days, while Hernando County's teachers gave up some pay raises to preserve teachers' jobs.

The tentative contract in Pinellas still must be ratified by the union and approved by the School Board.

Pay raises in Pinellas County will cost the district about $6 million this year, something superintendent John Stewart said was possible because of changes to the district's health insurance. Instead of one employee plan, there now are three, which will save the district about $12 million over two years.

Some employees will pay more out-of-pocket costs for health insurance, while others could save money.

Both sides professed relief Thursday that the protracted negotiations were at an end.

"It's a significant place to be. It took a long time to get here," said Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Stewart said he was "extremely happy" to reach an agreement.

"Everything that's good is worth waiting for," he quipped.

Board member Glenton Gilzean called it a "great week for our teachers."

"We're going in the right direction and I'm excited about it," he said.

The biggest compromise in the agreement is the end of early-release Wednesday, Ogletree said.

The practice, started about two years ago, gives teachers more planning time by closing schools about an hour early on Wednesdays. It has been popular with teachers, but less so with parents. Working parents have complained that it's difficult to arrange child care.

The Pinellas Education Foundation, a business-led nonprofit, has advocated an end to early-release Wednesday and using health insurance changes to pay teachers more. Jim Myers, chairman of the foundation, called the agreement "great news."

"Teachers came away with something positive and so did the parents," he said.

It's difficult to know how much benefit the average teacher will see from the pay bump.

Many teachers complained last year that other cuts took a bite out of their salaries, with some actually losing money because of increased health costs and fluctuations in local property tax revenues, which became tied to teacher salaries in 2005.

The average teacher in Pinellas earned about $45,837 in 2010-2011, the most recent school year available from the state. That puts Pinellas at 17th among the 67 districts for average salary.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Comments
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/22/18
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18