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  1. Gradebook

Pasco School Board approves teacher contract agreement

Teachers vote on the deal later in the week.

The Pasco County School Board on Tuesday unanimously ratified a teacher contract for the academic year that ends in less than two months.

The tentative agreement, which goes to teachers for their consideration on Wednesday, provides $4.9 million more for salaries than the year before, or about 2 percent. Of that amount, half will go to base pay and half will boost performance pay for teachers on annual contracts.

The deal also includes fully paid employee health insurance. It additionally leaves in place current terms for job evaluations, while representatives from the district and United Employees of Pasco look into possible changes for the future.

Evaluations, along with teacher training schedules, were among the handful of disputed issues that kept the sides from reaching a deal sooner. The USEP declared the talks had arrived at an impasse in January, and it wasn’t until an April mediation session that the negotiators settled their differences.

Before the board voted, USEP operations director Jim Ciadella encouraged the members to support the deal. Beyond that, he also urged the board to put more emphasis on increasing teacher pay rates.

“We hope this board and district find a way going forward to prioritize salaries, as we continue to fall behind our neighboring counties,” Ciadella said.

Board member Megan Harding, a classroom teacher before her November election, said that was a key issue for her.

“I already have had two friends get jobs in Pinellas County,” Harding told her colleagues. Without finding more money, she continued, “I am afraid we are going to lose the best of the best. ... I want future educators to have this be their first choice.”

The USEP plans to count the teachers’ ballots on Friday.

Expecting approval, the district payroll department already has begun the work necessary to implement the agreement. The goal is to have the new pay rates included in May 17 checks, with retroactive back pay available to eligible teachers as a lump sum in June 21 checks.