Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pasco district officials seek more input on pay plan adjustments

Pasco County school district leaders have touted a plan to have teachers work longer days as a way to get more money into their pockets.

Now they're trying to determine how well that idea plays in the field.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has recorded a message to teachers, in which he explains the concept and the rationale behind it. The district also plans to ask four open-ended questions to gauge teachers' opinion, while looking into the feasibility of conducting in-school staff meetings for extra input.

"He wants to get their feedback," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe explained.

School Board members have made clear that they're not sold on the concept, and would want to know whether teachers are accepting.

Related coverage: Work more, pay more proposal far from sure thing for Pasco County schools 

United School Employees of Pasco officials, meanwhile, raised concerns that Browning might seek to influence the outcome of an issue subject to collective bargaining. He has repeatedly noted that the idea is in the talking stage and would require negotiations to become reality.

In the past, the union has criticized the superintendent for sending emails and other messages to faculty and staff over topics such as salary talks.

Related coverage: Union leader to Pasco superintendent: Stop talking to our members 

Val Smith, lead negotiator for the USEP teacher unit, said the feedback the union has received so far has been negative.

"I don't think anybody is particularly eager to move forward with the proposal," Smith said. "We don't think the answer to providing more meaningful salaries to employees is to heap more work on them."

She questioned whether the district is making accurate comparisons with other school systems in discussing the possibility. Browning has said Hillsborough County is among other districts that have teachers instruct more periods in exchange for higher pay.

To get a better sense of what's happening statewide, Browning asked the state superintendents association to survey other counties for their practices.

Nearly three dozen districts responded. Of those, only Hillsborough and Indian River counties had an 8-hour teacher day, with the majority at 7.5 hours.

Most of the responding districts gave teachers 30-minute lunch breaks, and had them instructing six periods of seven each day. Santa Rosa County school teachers instructed six of six periods, and Suwanee teachers taught seven of seven.

Lee County teachers had three periods of four daily, in an eight period alternating block schedule.

Pasco district leaders have stressed that no formal proposal has been made. They have heard from both supporters and detractors so far, and have acknowledged conversation must continue if the idea has any chance of success.

The School Board is scheduled to hold a budget public hearing on Tuesday. Salaries have become a point of contention in crafting the spending plan, but no major changes are expected before the board's anticipated adoption.

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