Union leader to Pasco superintendent: Stop talking to our members

Published August 19 2016

In recent weeks, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has taken to email and YouTube to tell district employees about the pay and benefits package the School Board has included in its 2016-17 budget.

"I wish we could do more," Browning said in his welcome back video, "but this is the best we could do with the resources we were given."

United School Employees of Pasco president Kenny Blankenship wants Browning to stop sending such messages. He emailed the superintendent a letter late Friday, suggesting they subvert the contract negotiating process.

"I would request that you refrain from any further direct dealings with the Bargaining Unit members we represent, whether delivered directly through the email system and YouTube video, or indirectly through the local press," Blankenship wrote, referring to comments Browning made about negotiations to the Tampa Bay Times.

"It is our expectation that any District proposals regarding salary, wages, compensable benefits, work hours and other conditions of employment be properly brought to the table for a full and meaningful discussion and resolution," Blankenship continued.

Contract talks are set to resume next week, when the USEP is planning to present its financial proposal. Blankenship told the Gradebook the USEP would be asking the district to dip into its unallocated fund balances to increase employee pay, as union operations director Jim Ciadella told the School Board on Tuesday. The USEP officials told the Gradebook about their ideas two weeks ago.

School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said she did not expect Browning to stop interacting with district staff.

"The superintendent has an obligation to communicate with his employees," Cobbe said. "He's not going to stop because Kenny Blankenship sent him a letter."