Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School officials, union call cease fire in contract talks

LAND O'LAKES — They've already sparred publicly for weeks over pay.

Now Pasco County schoolteachers and the administration have begun formal talks about what they're going to do about their disagreements.

Representatives for each side sat down Tuesday to lay the ground rules for contract negotiations that leaders expect to be the toughest in years. The key issue remains money.

"Economics is on everyone's mind," said Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco.

"That's what we're going to focus on."

Webb expressed hope that the negotiators would reach agreement on benefits and raises based on years of service, or steps, before employees return to work in August. The district has asked both teachers and school-related personnel to delay taking their steps, which otherwise take effect next week on Tuesday.

The union rejected the request in May, when it first came up, and hundreds of teachers protested the idea by wearing black on the last day of classes in June. The district has again raised the question during negotiations, and Webb said she expected to respond by Wednesday.

Employee relations director Terry Rhum, the district's lead negotiator, said the administration and School Board must balance the budget even as the state reduces student and program funding. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has proposed $16-million in cuts, and has suggested more might be necessary.

During negotiations, the sides will discuss everything that goes into employee costs, the largest portion of the operating budget, Rhum said.

"Wages are one thing, and the step is part of that. ... Health insurance is another consideration, and also staffing levels are a consideration," he said. "We're just going to have to figure out what is possible."

Fiorentino has said one alternative is increasing the amount employees pay for benefits — especially if the union doesn't budge on steps. Already, the district is facing higher than expected rate hikes for health insurance, which officials have said they do not want to pass along to the workers.

The district finance department has estimated that the board could generate $12.1-million by increasing employees' contribution to benefits by $100 a month.

Both Rhum and Webb said the idea of having teachers teach more time each day, as other districts including Hillsborough have done, is not likely.

Webb said, "I'm certainly hoping we're not [negotiating] until November, like last year."

But she wasn't overly optimistic after preliminary talks with district officials including Rhum, who said the talks could take time.

"We're not close yet on salaries," he said. "It may be months, and it probably will be."

Teachers return to work on Aug. 11. Classes begin Aug. 18.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

School officials, union call cease fire in contract talks 06/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 5:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Indianapolis 500 drivers in fiery crash somehow walk away uninjured

    Auto racing

    Scott Dixon and Jay Howard avoided injury in a spectacular crash - or what Dixon labeled "a wild ride" afterward - during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

  2. Homeland security chief defends Kushner's alleged proposal for 'back channel' to the Russians as 'a good thing"


    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a "good thing" for the U.S. government.

    Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, listens during a meeting with small business leaders at the White House on Jan. 30. [Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford]
  3. After hard charging on health care in 2016, Marco Rubio is slow, careful


    As a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio pitched an Obamacare replacement and tore into Donald Trump for not having one. "What is your plan? What is your plan on health care? You don't have a plan," the Florida senator aggressively challenged in a February 2016 debate.

  4. Report: Florida counties part of liver disease cluster


    STUART — Four counties along Florida's Treasure Coast make up a cluster with high rates of both deaths from liver disease and algae blooms.

  5. Authorities say cocaine is making comeback in Florida


    FORT LAUDERDALE — Drug enforcement officials say traffickers are bringing more cocaine into South Florida than at any time in the past decade.

    Traffickers are bringing more cocaine into South Florida than at any time in the past decade, officials say.  [Times files]