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Negotiators hammer out school contract

The proposal, which was finalized in a 16-hour session, still

needs the approval of the School Board and employees.

Negotiators for Pasco County school employees and the district agreed on a proposed contract Friday morning that would increase the money spent on salaries 4.25 percent over last year.

The agreement will increase spending on salaries of teachers and other employees by about $8.5-million. The contract still must be ratified by both the employee rank and file and the School Board. No date has been set for either vote.

Exactly how much of an increase employees will see in their paychecks remains to be seen, however. That's because while the district and union have agreed on how much salaries will increase overall, they have not hammered out how to spread out the money along the district's salary schedules. Depending on how they do that, some teachers could see larger raises than others.

Teachers will return to work next week.

Union president Lynne Webb said the settlement is fair and in line with what teachers in other districts received this year. The money districts will receive from the state this year will be highly restricted in how it can be spent. Webb said new state rules precluded the district from using the money for pay raises.

"I'm not jumping up and down for joy, but it's a fair package," she said. "In light of what the Legislature gave us, the School Board gave us the best package it could."

Superintendent John Long said he, too, thought the proposed contract is fair to teachers and other school employees.

"I think it's a good settlement," Long said. "At first it looked like we were only able to give about a 3 percent (raise), but we were able to go beyond that."

The proposed contract also calls for a 5.25 percent increase to the stipends teachers receive for coaching or sponsoring extracurricular activities. Currently, those stipends range anywhere from $3,469 for a high school football coach to $496 for a chorus director.

Summer school teachers also will make more money under the proposed contract. Over the next three years, the district has agreed to increase summer school pay to equal what teachers receive during the regular school year.

The contract also increases the hourly rate of pay for teachers attending after-hour training classes. Currently, they receive $10 an hour for training, while the proposed contract will bump that to $12.50 an hour.

Union and district negotiators met in a marathon session that began at 2:30 p.m. Thursday and did not end until 6:30 a.m. Friday. After such a long night, negotiators decided to take a break before reworking the salary schedules, which will tell employees exactly how much of raise they can expect under the proposed contract.

Some employees may see a bigger boost than others, depending upon how the union and district agree to spread the money around. Last year, for example, they decided to put most of the increase at the low end of the salary scale in an attempt to bring up entry-level wages.

"You have to weigh dollar amounts and percentages," Webb said. "Some may get more than the 4.25 (percent) and some may get less."

The proposed contract appears to give Pasco teachers a slightly bigger raise than teachers in other districts. Pinellas teachers got a 4 percent increase, while those in Hillsborough received a 3 percent bump. Overall, however, Pasco's teacher salaries continue to lag behind those larger districts.

Also included in the contract:

An additional 50 minutes per week for bus drivers to complete paperwork and maintainence.

Additional money for custodians who undertake advanced training.

A $2.50 increase in the hourly wage for special education teachers to complete paperwork and attend meetings after school hours.

An increase in the minimum workday for bus drivers, from 4.5 hours to six.