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Hernando schools ink contracts with teachers and others

The district has also promised to look for ways to bring insurance costs down for 2021 and beyond.

BROOKSVILLE — All Hernando County school district staff will get pay raises, with teachers bringing home an extra 4.25 percent and non-instructional staff earning an extra 40 cents per hour.

Under separate contracts that received unanimous approval at the Hernando County School Board meeting Tuesday, teachers will receive raises in addition to merit pay, which totals $100 for those earning the top “highly effective” ratings and an extra $75 for those who are rated “effective.”

The contract, which was ratified by members of the Hernando County Classroom Teachers Association, also includes $800 bonuses for pre-kindergarten teachers who don’t qualify for the state’s merit pay program. Raises will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.

“Our bargaining team worked hard,” said Vince La Borante, president of the teachers’ union. He noted that the contract received approval from 92 percent of the membership. “It’s good to see such a positive relationship” with the administration, he said, adding that communication had improved with the arrival of Superintendent John Stratton.

The increases raise the costs of salaries and benefits to more $4.1 million. Of that, $3.8 million will come from the district’s general fund, an increase of more than $1.1 million over last year’s costs of more than $2.7 million. The bonuses are expected to cost the district’s general fund about $278,800.

Not included in the agreement is a greater district contribution to the cost of health insurance premiums, which are set to climb about 10 percent for the district overall under its renewed contract with Florida Blue. Employees on certain plans face much higher premium increases after the School Board’s monthly contribution of $550. Increases are steepest for those on employee-only plans and would double under one plan.

The district has promised to look for ways to bring insurance costs down for 2021 and beyond. It plans to bring in a consultant and may put a bid out for insurance contracts.

The contract approved for members of the Hernando United School Workers includes an hourly raise of 40 cents and will be paid Dec. 20. The overall cost to the district is $1.5 million. Employees covered under the contract include cafeteria workers, custodians, teachers’ aides, clerks and bus operators. The union ratified the contract earlier this month.

Secretaries and other employees not covered by the Hernando United School Workers contract will also receive an extra 40 cents per hour, while principals and other school-based administrators will receive the same 4.25 percent raises as teachers.

All salary proposals were approved without comment from board members as part of the consent agenda, which is usually reserved for non-controversial items.

In other news:

Board member Susan Duval won a second term as chairwoman, while Linda Prescott was chosen as vice chairwoman for another year. The vote for chairperson was split 3-2. Baord member Jimmy Lodato nominated Gus Guadagnino, who joined Lodato in voting for himself. Duval let Prescott and board member Kay Hatch vote first before breaking the tie in her favor.

Board members also recognized Stratton for completing a superintendents’ certification program. The yearlong program, provided by the Florida Superintendents Association, includes training on legal and economic issues, employee relations and collective bargaining, as well as leadership in improving student achievement. It also requires participants to attend workshops and pass three exams.

The board also approved a meeting schedule for the next year. Meetings will continue to be held twice monthly, with workshops at 2 p.m. and regular meetings at 6 p.m. the same day. Board members added a new session at 5 p.m. before each first monthly regular meeting to celebrate employees and students who have won awards. Those sessions will begin Dec. 10.