It’s no secret that COVID-19 has taken its toll on school operations.
When Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, appeared before the Pasco County School Board on Jan. 18, he pointed to declining morale, increasing mental health concerns, rising numbers of staff resignations and retirements, and a number of other issues.
On Feb. 1, Peace urged the school district’s administration and school board to join the union in seeking a ballot initiative to improve school funding.
“I am asking that all of you today, join with me and take a real stand for public education employees of Pasco County,” Peace said.
“The time to act is now.
“We can’t wait for help in the future,” he added. “If Tallahassee is not going to help us properly fund employee salaries and programs, than we must take the steps to do this ourselves.
“Never has there been a better time to start the ball rolling for a November ballot initiative — a referendum to support employee salaries and 1-to-1 student technology needs.
“Parents are ready. The community is ready,” he said.
He reminded the board and district staff about comments he made during the board’s previous meeting about the need to act on behalf of employees.
“If we don’t act now, we won’t have safe and qualified bus drivers transporting our kids to school.
“We won’t have qualified and caring FNS (Food and Nutritional Services) staff, preparing nutritious breakfasts and lunches for our students.
“We won’t have the senior-experienced teachers in front of our students, delivering instruction and mentoring our up-and-coming educators.
“We won’t have the resource staff, the guidance counselors, the behavioral specialists, the social workers — all of the other support staff that plays such a special role in educating all of our special needs students.
“We won’t have the mental health support that we so desperately need for our employees, who are begging for help.
“We won’t have caring and hardworking custodial staff to clean our campuses, or mechanics to keep up our transportation, or secretaries to support our working staff.
“We are the only district, in our five-district region, without a referendum to aid with district costs.
“Until we take this action, we will not be able to compete with the surrounding districts.
“We must do all that we can to retain all of our employees.
“We cannot afford to lose even one.
“We must take steps today.
“Join with me, in this call to action now.
“We can’t wait for legislators in Tallahassee to fix our problems.
“Despite what they say, we’re not their No. 1 concern. We must act on our own behalf.
“Let’s do this together.
“My ask is for this board to take formal action, on a ballot initiative, today,” Peace said.
Despite his urgings, no one on the school board, or within the district’s administration, responded to Peace’s call to action.
Meanwhile, on the union’s website, there is an update on the issue of salary increases.
The update says that the union and district have received information from the Florida Department of Education regarding calculations based on full-time equivalent students.
“Due to funding concerns statewide, this has taken considerably longer than in any previous year,” according to website update.
“There has been a tremendous increase across the district and state of families taking advantage of the new HOPE and FAMILY EMPOWERMENT scholarship opportunities, which has diminished available monies to negotiate for salary increases,” the information adds.
The union and senior school district staff “are currently evaluating existing allocations to see where additional funds may be available to use for this purpose,” the update concludes.
Published February 09, 2022