The Polk County School Board has approved salary and contract agreements with our school district’s paraeducators and clerical support personnel.
The School Board approved the agreements during Tuesday’s meeting in a 6-1 vote (Sarah Fortney was the dissenting vote).
Under the agreements, employee dependent and spousal premium costs will not increase for PCPS’ self-funded health plan. In order to keep employee health plan premium costs from rising, teams from the school district and the Polk Education Association (the union representing paraeducators and clerical support personnel) negotiated that the approximately $10 million available for salaries and benefits would go into the self-funded insurance plan for all employees.
With the entire $10 million being utilized for insurance sustainability, both sides agreed to a salary freeze for one school year, 2019-2020.
“I’m pleased we’ve reached this agreement with educational support personnel and paraeducators. Anyone who has ever worked in, attended, or visited a school knows these individuals perform vital work for our students, and we are most thankful for their service,” said PCPS Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “This agreement helps to stabilize our 2020 calendar year health plan, ensuring there are no increases in healthcare premiums for employee dependents covered by our health insurance. While I am proud of this result, I have heard loud and clear in recent weeks that our employees need more support, financial and otherwise. I am committed to doing everything I can to improve their working conditions and experience — because that’s what they deserve.”
PEA President Stephanie Yocum added that “most of the people PEA represents would have made less money than they currently bring home if the $10 million was split into miniscule raises, coupled with across-the-board premium and deductible increases.”
“Our bargaining team listened to the results of our survey in the spring, where people expressed the necessity for insurance to stay status quo. This was a concession we were willing to make this year and this year only. The district cannot continue to keep the insurance plan viable on the backs of our frontline workers over the next four years,” Yocum said. “I am optimistic that our School Board will not pass next year’s budget without a salary increase for all employees, as Board Chair Lori Cunningham stated at the Jan. 28 meeting. PEA plans to hold our board to that promise.”
District officials returned to negotiations with the PEA Jan. 8 over the terms of the teacher contract for 2019-20 since a tentative agreement with teachers was not ratified last month. The parties are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 5. For more information, please click here to see our previous news release.
Best & Brightest bonuses available soon to teachers and paraeducators
The Polk County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday that teachers and paraeducators should be eligible for the state recognition bonuses rewarding their instructional efforts in the classroom.
This year the district received $9.8 million as part of the fifth year of the state’s Best and Brightest program. Approximately $1.4 million of the funding was provided to charter schools as their share of the Best and Brightest funds.
The remaining $8.4 million will be distributed to eligible PCPS K-12 classroom teachers and paraeducators.
The Florida Department of Education determines the criteria and monetary awards for classroom teacher recruitment and classroom teacher retention, as well as principal retention. For more information on these bonuses, click here.
Money also is available for what is called “instructional personnel recognition.”
One major change this year is that ACT and SAT scores are no longer part of the program. Another change is that school boards are responsible for establishing the criteria for the instructional personnel recognition awards, including whether paraeducators can receive a bonus. In past years, paraeducators were excluded from the state’s Best and Brightest program.
On Tuesday, Polk School Board members approved the distribution of recognition bonuses to teachers who were rated Highly Effective or Effective on their 2018-19 evaluation. Teachers will receive the same monetary award regardless of the rating.
In addition, all PCPS paraeducators (approximately 1,600 employees) will receive a monetary award.
The exact amounts of the recognition bonuses for teachers and paraeducators cannot be determined until the number of recruitment and retention awards are known.
The remaining funds would then be available for recognition bonuses, and the amounts would be negotiated with the Polk Education Association — the local union whose bargaining units include teachers and paraeducators.
The goal is for eligible PCPS employees to receive their Best and Brightest bonuses by the end of March or early April.