The leader of the United School Employees of Pasco (USEP) said the county’s school system could be held up as a model for other districts in the state — in terms of pay improvements for teachers and non-administrative personnel.
“We feel that this has been one of the better two-year salary improvements in the state. Thank you to the board for allowing us this opportunity,” Don Peace, USEP’s president said during the Pasco County School Board’s Oct. 17 meeting.
“Thanks also to the staff’s negotiating teams, negotiators and superintendent for allowing this to happen,” Peace added.
Peace reported that the negotiating teams for the district and the union have completed the negotiations process on economic issues early in the year for the second year in a row.
“We were able to come to terms on a 3.5% across-the-board increase for all qualified employees,” Peace said.
The settlement, coupled with proceeds from a voter-approved referendum stipend plus last year’s 5.4% increases, combined to create an average increase in compensation to instructional employees of 17.8% over the last 14 months, Peace said.
He characterized that as “an exceptional amount compared to other districts around the state.”
The district’s School Related Personnel, also known as SRPs, saw significant increases, too.
“All told, with the 8.9% average referendum money, combined with the newly negotiated 3.5%, along with last year’s increases, SRP employees have seen salary increases from anywhere from 17.3% to a staggering 41.4% over the last 14 months.” Peace said.
“The economic settlement also included long-awaited athletic and academic supplement increases as well,” Peace said.
As a former coach, he said he knows those supplement increases are long overdue.
“They haven’t been changed in probably 20-something years,” Peace said.
The district also agreed to cover higher costs for employee health insurance, agreed to pay increases to the Florida Retirement System benefits, and to cover the cost of fingerprinting employees. It also will pay a health and wellness incentive for qualified employees.
The district also agreed to preserve a fund to pay teachers who voluntarily give up a planning period to deliver instruction. That fund addresses the void created by a lack of qualified substitutes to teach those classes.
The district also has improved its pay for bus drivers, in its quest to address a shortage of drivers that has been felt across the nation.
Bus drivers and relief drivers each have been moved up a pay grade, plus they received a $1-an- hour wage increase negotiated earlier in the year and a return-to-work incentive due to bus drivers being deemed a critical shortage area.
Peace said that Kevin Shibley, assistant superintendent for administration, reported that improved pay had reduced the number of unfilled positions this year.
Betsy Kuhn, assistant superintendent of support services, said the district has 27 bus driver vacancies right now, which is an improvement over the past. She also said seven people are enrolled for bus driver training — the most the district has had in a single training class during the past two years.
Published October 25, 2023