The Pinellas County School Board unanimously approved an agreement with the teachers union Tuesday, finalizing raises and better working conditions for the 7,200 employees who staff its classrooms.
Bargaining teams reached the agreement in January after months of contentious negotiations. It was ratified last week in a vote of teachers, with 95 percent in support.
The agreement will result in what union president Mike Gandolfo has called “significant strides,” with teachers getting more time to plan their lessons and more pay — an overall raise of 2.55 percent.
That equates to $1,250 for tenured teachers. Those on annual contracts who are rated “highly effective” will earn about the same, while those with effective ratings will earn $938 more, Gandolfo said.
In addition, the district’s starting teacher pay will rise to $43,809, the highest in the Tampa Bay region. The increase should boost teacher recruitment efforts in the county, assistant superintendent Paula Texel, a lead contract negotiator for the district, told the School Board.
"Our goal is to continue to lead the neighboring districts in beginning teacher salaries and all of our salaries, which our teachers so deserve," she added.
Although the district offered the exact pay bumps in November, the union held out for two more months to fight against what teachers called unfair working conditions, like intense oversight of lesson planning and added tasks unrelated to instruction. The new contract provides protections against those frustrations.
The terms "attempt to release some of the steam from the pressure cooker that has become the teaching profession," Gandolfo told the School Board before its vote. "This agreement places us on the path to create better working environments in our schools."
Teachers no longer will have to submit formal lesson plans to administrators and will instead be evaluated on their performance in the classroom. They won’t have to attend as many group planning meetings either, giving them more time to plan on their own as they see fit.
Elementary teachers will be required to attend eight group meetings a month while middle and high school teachers will attend no more than five, Texel said. No meetings can be held in the five days leading up to final grade submission.
“We definitely know that planning for instruction is critical to the success of our students and understand there needs to be a balance in our schedules to make this happen,” Texel said, adding: “Definitions of meetings, planning and other activities, such as coaching, that are part of a teacher’s work day were updated and revised.”
Performance evaluations, which will happen less frequently under the new agreement, will be more in-depth, and teachers will be entitled to conferences with administrators before and afterward.
“It is our hope that this contract addresses enough issues to bring a little relief to educators who have had to endure unhealthy stress levels,” Gandolfo said in a statement announcing the vote by teachers to approve the contract.
District officials said teachers will start seeing the raises in their March 1 paychecks. The raises are retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year.
Contact Megan Reeves at email@example.com. Follow @mareevs.