About 1,100 Pasco County school district employees won pay raises on Tuesday, even as negotiations for the majority of faculty and staff remained in limbo.
School Board members approved the retroactive increases — 2 percent in pay, with another 0.59 percent for pension and workers compensation contributions — for all workers who do not have the opportunity to collectively bargain. That includes most of the employees in the district offices, as well as principals and other administrators.
The superintendent’s staff is part of that group, but will not be eligible for the money until contract talks with teachers and school-related personnel are concluded. Those conversations have hit a wall in recent weeks, with the sides at loggerheads over money, as well as issues including performance evaluations and rules for layoffs and involuntary job transfers.
Related coverage: Pasco teacher contract talks to stretch into 2019
Representatives from the district and United School Employees of Pasco head back to the table Thursday for another stab at reaching agreement. Neither side held out much hope that a deal was imminent, with each entrenched in its positions.
USEP negotiators have indicated they would declare talks at an impasse, and call for an outside magistrate to assist the process, if they can’t accomplish a deal soon.
District officials have said they did not want to hurt the employees who are not part of that negotiating process, especially if the talks stall in a stalemate.
“These non-represented employees have been waiting patiently, and without any other demands, for their salary adjustments as negotiations with USEP have stretched out for more than 6 months,” assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley told the board in a recent email.
The board approved the raises, totaling about $1.55 million, without comment Tuesday.
Its action came at the end of a lengthy public comment session, where dozens of speakers continued to battle over the district’s policies relating to transgender student restroom and locker room use, and parental consent for extracurriculars and clubs.
Close to 100 people filled the River Ridge High School media center, where the board met, to express their views on the situation. The majority spoke against allowing transgender students to use facilities according to their identified gender, saying the district should rely on biological sex instead.
They have been attending board meetings since the fall, and vowed to continue the fight until they get a resolution they find acceptable.
“This is a serious matter,” said Terry Kemple of Brandon, former executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition. “People will continue to come. ... This can’t be done in the dark anymore.”
A smaller number of LGBTQ activists attended to urge the district to hold firm in its current practices.
“Discrimination is something that can come in many forms and something we need to push back against,” Gina Duncan of Orlando-based Equality Florida told the board.
Superintendent Kurt Browning said he had not prepared any policy changes for the board to consider, and that he would keep reviewing the concerns raised. Board members did not comment on the subject.
Related coverage: Pasco residents call for changes to school district policies on transgender students, club participation