• Educators await association explanation

    By: GREG GILES, Staff Writer, North Port Sun

    Updated:

    North Port, Florida - Sarasota County educators are still awaiting their association’s explanation of a two-year salary pact with the school district that does away with traditional salary schedules.

    The idea of losing salary increments for longevity goes so against the union model of operating that some local educators are recommending employees vote against endorsement of the proposal, according to the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association Facebook page. The proposal must be ratified by both the membership and the Sarasota County School Board.

    The association votes March 5, while the school board votes on March 6.

    SC/TA President Pat Gardner said she and Executive Director Barry Dubin, both long-time association representatives, are still ironing out some of the finer details in the agreement.

    A question-and-answer explanation of the association’s rationale for going along with the agreement, and key terms of the agreement, are in draft form, ready to be sent to the membership any day now, Gardner said. That could happen as early as Wednesday.

    The traditional salary schedule and longevity increases are being done away, say officials, in favor of "merit pay."

    But does it matter?

    Salary schedules and longevity increases were always a tool, which was reduced to a dollar amount by which employees benefited. As long as the increases continue, it may not matter what terms educators use to call their annual adjustments.

    On SC/TA’s Facebook page, some members are livid at the agreement, saying automatic adjustments are what keep teachers coming back. One member said the union caved.

    Monetarily, the agreement looks as good as any that has been negotiated recently.

    About two thirds of all teachers are rated as Highly Effective and will receive a 4.25 percent increased (based, ironically, on a base salary calculation that includes what’s being called a "retention" adjustment).

    About a third of teachers are rated as Effective teachers and will receive a salary increase of 3.25 percent next year.

    The small number of educators who don’t attain the Highly Effective or Effective rating will receive no adjustment, but no decrease either.

    All classified employees -- including food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, teacher aides and others -- will receive a 3.75 percent adjustment. Settling the agreement was a priority of the association and the school district prior to the March education referendum. Failure to come to agreement could have upstaged the referendum, causing doubt in the minds of some voters.

    Under the settlement, newly hired teachers for the 2017-18 school year will receive $43,150 for a 196-day (10 month) contract. It goes up to $44,300 the next school year.

    The average teacher salary in Sarasota County public schools in 2016-17 was $54,524, according to the Florida Department of Education.

    Email: ggiles@venicegondolier.com

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