Monday, May 28, 2018
Education

Pasco superintendent wants to oust tobacco from all school facilities

Superintendent Kurt Browning wants to see all Pasco County schools and other properties go tobacco-free.

School District policy already requires it, except for an exemption set forth in its teacher contract. And that hole is a big one.

The contract allows tobacco use at all schools and work sites opened before July 1, 1996 — that's well over half of them — unless the staff unanimously agrees to ban it. Neither the district nor the United School Employees of Pasco have records of any staff votes occurring during the 18 years the provision has been in effect.

Browning said he didn't understand how the district could justify allowing a single employee to dictate a school's tobacco policy. "Hopefully we can get things worked out."

His administration plans to propose amending the contract to mirror district policy, which states, "Smoking and the use of all tobacco products are prohibited by law inside all Board facilities and in all 'common areas.' "

Both Pinellas and Hillsborough schools already have such a full ban in place. Hernando schools ban tobacco use in areas used by students or designated for student activities.

Pasco's contract exemption would disappear, if the USEP would agree.

A deal is far from guaranteed, though.

USEP leaders, who refused to discuss this idea when first approached last fall, have expressed dismay in recent weeks at the district's requests for employees to give up existing rights for little to nothing in return. Beyond this request to end smoking where it's currently allowed, the administration also has asked teachers to relinquish the right to transfer jobs during the school year.

"The district so far is coming to us with what we consider significant givebacks, without providing anything that appears a beneficial trade-off," union lead negotiator Jim Ciadella said.

Further complicating matters, Browning and his leadership team have taken great offense to USEP president Kenny Blankenship's recent comments accusing the administration of being unapproachable and disrespectful toward teachers.

Browning responded by remarking that the USEP "does not run the district."

That tension threatens to affect whether the sides approach contract talks, which resume Monday for school-related personnel, as collaborators or adversaries.

Ciadella acknowledged that agreements require compromise. But he stressed that the USEP does not intend to give without getting.

The tobacco use rules are likely to be caught up in this give and take, despite the recognized health benefits of going tobacco-free.

A USEP member survey indicated mixed views about changing the rule, with about 40 percent favoring the ban, 35 percent backing the contract exemption and the rest ambivalent, Ciadella said.

"They tell us even if they personally smoke or not — and most do not — they feel it is a person's right to smoke," he said, noting that it's not against any law and that employees do not smoke in front of students.

Taking away the contractual provision, he added, could represent the beginning of a never-ending effort to dictate lifestyle decisions.

"Do you restrict overweight people from doing certain things?" Ciadella said. "Where does it end?"

Employee relations director Betsy Kuhn dismissed the slippery slope argument, saying the district simply wants to improve work and education conditions. Smoking affects the environment for students and other non-smokers, she said, just as keeping teachers in the same classroom for a full year maintains instructional consistency for students and educators.

"I think we're asking for things for a good reason, not to be harsher," Kuhn said. "We're really trying to work with them on some proposals."

The antitobacco proposal is set to come to the school-related personnel Monday and to teachers on Tuesday, when the sides also will begin talking about financial issues, including raises.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

Comments
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA — Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively’s Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Published: 05/25/18
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

TAMPA — The company hired by the Hillsborough County School District to fill more than 170,000 substitute teaching shifts every year is defending its record, saying it works to get to the bottom of allegations against employees, treat them fairly and...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18
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...
Published: 05/22/18
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