The USEP and District negotiation teams have been hard at work meeting 2-4 times a week in an effort to settle the contracts before the school year begins. Obviously, one of the main subjects is salary increases. USEP Just received the actual breakdown of employees in the SRP and teacher units, so meaningful discussions can now begin. It is USEP’s goal to provide meaningful raises to all teachers and SRP.
While there are significant funds from the state, there still was not enough to allow the District to climb out of the budgetary hole entirely. Therefore, as part of efforts to budget more realistically and provide for contractual salary increases, the District reduced allocations by over 200!
As always, health insurance also plays a key role. The District is expecting increases due to higher than expected claims yet has not included in its proposed budget adequate District funds to cover the increase. That could mean plan modifications and/or increased cost for employees. In addition, another Health and Wellness Center is being opened in September in the Hudson area to provide additional access. All of these options are being explored by the Insurance Committee.
As part of the insurance discussion, the District has expressed possibly eliminating the $150 insurance flex account and substituting an health and wellness incentive and the opportunity to add additional life insurance at no cost to the employee. This issue is also being worked on by the insurance committee.
For all employees, the district is seeking to change the number of deductions for insurance to 22 deductions. Currently it is either 20 or 24 depending upon the number of paychecks an employee receives. For teachers and others who receive 26 checks, the biweekly amount would increase but instead of having just two skip checks, there’d be four. For SRP who currently have 20 deductions, the 22 deductions would be a lesser amount that their current biweekly amount.
The District is also seeking Paycheck Changes – to require those employees still receiving a paper paycheck to use either direct deposit or a “pay card” process, which is like a debit card that is refilled each pay period.
While there has not yet been a formal proposal, the District has indicated a desire to immediately close entry into the early-retirement annuity program. Those who have already retired would not be affected. The district claims Pasco is one of the only districts left who offer the annuity. Budgeting for the annuity costs over a million dollars every year. The District has not indicated that it is planning to do away with the retiree health benefit.
The following are issues that pertain mainly to teachers.
Common Core Planning Days – the District is seeking to add 2 additional work days at teachers’ full pay to allow teachers to plan together for the continued introduction of the Common Core State Standards. Attendance would be mandatory. One day would be during pre-planning week and the other on February 17, 2014 (President’s Day). In order to pay for this with Race-to-the-Top funds, this must be in addition to their regular calendar. While nothing is finalized, teachers will have the option to come in and work the Friday before preplanning or work 9- hour days during pre-planning week. Payment will be in lump sum in one of the pay periods following the day and not prorated out throughout the school year.
Transfer and Re-Assignments – the District is seeking to restrict teachers’ ability to transfer during the school year to limit disruptions and to take into consideration students’ overall performance which also factors into the new teacher evaluation process (VAM scores). USEP has asked for information over the past 2 years to determine how extensive this issue has been.
Lacoochee Elementary School (LES) Recruitment Incentive Program – Due to the state requirement to restructure LES due to its school grades, USEP and the District entered into an agreement regarding restaffing the instructional staff and providing recruitment/retention incentives from Race-to-the-Top grant. Teachers at LES will get a $500 “sign-on” bonus on Aug. 30, followed by $2,000 spread throughout the year. There are also supplements of $2,500 for the second year and $10,000 for the third year provided the teachers remain at LES and receive effective evaluation ratings.
Instructional Evaluation Changes – the Union and District have had preliminary discussions over what changes need to be incorporated into the process for this year. Discussions have centered on moving from one or two “formal” observation/evaluations per year to more frequent, informal observations; changing the scoring thresholds that define Highly Effective, Effective, etc. to more accurately reflect the number of highly effective teachers; and incorporating Marzano’s Domains 2-3-4 on a “trial basis” only, meaning they would be observed but not counted towards the overall rating.