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Pasco teachers union, district seek compromise over planning time

LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco County teachers union has delayed action on its long-running complaint that principals are misusing teachers' planning periods.

In postponing a Monday grievance hearing, the United School Employees of Pasco seeks a compromise that would preserve educators' time to prepare individually while also meeting the district's goal of more collaboration in "professional learning communities," or PLCs.

"You can't have teachers collaborating every minute of the day," USEP president Lynne Webb said. "There has to be some time just to get work done."

Assistant superintendent Amelia Larson said recent conversations with Webb made clear that the teachers and district want the same thing: for teachers to have time to do their daily jobs and also to work jointly toward improving their craft.

"We just need to work out the details," Larson said. "I don't think there is a need for a grievance."

Teacher workload complaints have been ongoing for years.

The USEP filed a grievance in 2012 over what it considered an increasing burden, after collecting feedback for two years. It argued administrators usurped contractual planning time for staff meetings, paperwork, data entry and other activities.

Even then, the USEP urged the end of professional learning community sessions along with other district-level requirements.

Then-superintendent Heather Fiorentino denied the grievance, but her replacement, Kurt Browning, tried to tackle the key complaints a few months later. He mandated a reduction in locally selected tests, for instance, and called for fewer collaborative meetings.

It didn't take long for teachers to restate criticisms that the district was forcing them to meet in PLC groups more than agreed to in the contract. Browning denied the charge, saying professional learning community sessions and planning were the same.

The USEP filed a new grievance on behalf of more than 800 teachers.

Webb suggested that the administration needs to get past the notion that the union represents only a few isolated gripers.

"If they had spent time validating what we were saying instead of saying, 'bring us the individual examples,' we could have been a lot further along than we are," Webb said.

Both she and Larson were hopeful that new efforts to design planning and collaboration models for teachers would end the standoff.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Pasco teachers union, district seek compromise over planning time 05/16/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2014 8:43pm]
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