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  1. Gradebook

Pasco teachers eye new Pinellas contract with concern

The salary differences continue to grow between the neighboring districts.

A plan to increase Pinellas County’s entry-level teacher pay to $43,809 did not go unnoticed in adjacent Pasco County, where contract negotiations have ground to a halt.

It would take a Pasco teacher with a bachelor’s degree 16 years to reach that salary.

That gap exacerbates ongoing worries that educators can take jobs just a short drive away from Pasco, leaving that county’s schools wanting.

“We obviously have a real concern,” said United School Employees of Pasco executive director Jim Ciadella.

The USEP has reached a tentative agreement to give teachers 2 percent raises on average. It still disputes the district’s plan for how to distribute the money.

Either way, Pasco would not be competitive with its neighbor to the south.

In districts around the nation — most recently Denver and Los Angeles — teachers dissatisfied with pay and work conditions have walked out. Ciadella said the USEP is not considering making a similar call, noting Florida law does not permit teacher strikes.

A teacher could lose her job, benefits and pension by taking such an action, he said. The USEP does not want to ask teachers to jeopardize their livelihoods.

The USEP is attempting meanwhile to pressure the district on other key issues such as how performance evaluations work, and whether seniority may be considered in layoffs and involuntary transfers.

“We would like to see this thing resolved," Ciadella said. “We’re hoping we don’t have to go to the School Board with these issues.”

The USEP and district are in the process of selecting a special magistrate to guide their impasse hearings.