Nearly three months after declaring negotiations had arrived at an impasse, representatives for the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco are set to meet with a federal mediator over the weekend.
The mediator, who is coming from Orlando, has set aside four hours to confer with the sides, review the remaining issues on the table and offer possible resolutions.
Since official talks stalled, the bargaining teams have reached tentative agreements on teacher pay and seniority considerations during layoffs and involuntary transfers. But they are still at odds regarding terms for performance evaluations and training time for teachers at schools operating under state turnaround plans.
District employee relations director Kathy Scalise said “time is of the essence” to reach a deal, because without a settled contract, the district might lose access to grant funds that are expected to be included in the pay package.
That money must be formally allocated before the grant term expires, she said, or the district would have to return it. During impasse, even the tentatively agreed upon terms are considered null until the sides complete their bargaining, Scalise added, meaning that the deal on raises could not take effect.
If the sides cannot find a solution in mediation, they would return to impasse hearings with a special magistrate. The last time that occurred, they did not conclude the process for several months.
If that happened now, teachers might end 2018-19 without ratifying a contract, which could jeopardize the pay raises.
“We’re really hoping we can get it taken care of,” Scalise said.
USEP officials were in meetings and not available for comment.