Pinellas County School Board approves pay increases

Paula Texel, associate superintendent for Human Resources Services, explains the tentative agreements with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association, SEIU/Florida Public Services Union, as well as an agreement for administrators, professional/technical/supervisory and non-represented support staff during a Nov. 12 School Board meeting.

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board unanimously approved agreements with most of its employees’ associations and one union Nov. 12, resulting in pay raises for everyone.

Board members said yes to tentative agreements with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association, SEIU/Florida Public Services Union, as well as an agreement for administrators, professional/technical/supervisory and non-represented support staff.

School Superintendent Michael Grego said he was “proud and happy” the agreements had been ratified, pointing out that over the last seven years, salary increases had amounted to 31%. He also said the agreement with the teacher’s association would bring the salary for starting teachers to $45,000. The hourly rate would be $30.30.

He said staff that negotiated the agreement had worked to “fairly and equitably increase salaries across the board,” remembering the longest-serving teachers as well.

The cost of teachers pay increases is about $11.25 million. The pay raises include money from the local referendum, which has been approved by voters every four years since 2004.

The average salary increase is 3.25%, retroactive to July 1.

The agreement includes $400,000 to provide bonuses to Pre-K and adult education instructors, who are excluded from recognition through the state’s Best and Brightest program. The Board also approved policies on how to distribute the $9.7 million from the state program to eligible employees.

Health costs are increasing and the School Board will pay an additional $800,000. Employees cost will go up between $2-$5 per pay period. The School Board also will pay about $1.2 million for the increased contribution to the Florida Retirement System with no additional cost to employees.

The average total compensation for members of PCTA is 3.62%.

In addition, the number of sick days an employee can use for personal reasons increased from four days to five days.

Members of PESPA also will receive a pay raise of 3.25%, retroactive to July 1. The same terms applies for increases in healthcare and increased contributions into the Florida Retirement System. The average total compensation increase is 3.62%. The costs to the school board total about $1.7 million.

In addition, support employees who have successfully completed Certificate of Distinction I will be awarded an annual supplement of $275, and those who have completed Certificate of Distinction II will receive a supplement of $300, which is an increase of $25 for both groups.

The supplement for support staff riding the bus increased from $7 a day to $7.50 a day. Support staff that has direct contact with students at Tier 3 and Tier 4 schools will receive a bonus of $800, prorated for those who work less than the full year.

Employees also may receive a $350 bonus if the school increases one letter grade or $475 if the school increases two letter grades on the state’s evaluation.

School Board member Eileen Long said members of PESPA were the employees who most need the extra pay.

“As a teacher, I couldn’t have done without my assistant,” she said, adding that cafeteria workers and other support employees all work together to help the district’s children.

Members of SEIU/FPSU will receive the same pay raise of 3.25%, retroactive to July 1. The same terms applies for increases in healthcare and increased contributions into the Florida Retirement System. The average total compensation increase is 3.62%. The cost to the school board is about $1.76 million.

Support employees who have successfully completed Certificate of Distinction I will be awarded an annual supplement of $275, and those who have completed Certificate of Distinction II will receive a supplement of $300, an increase of $25.

All non-instructional employees, including administrators, professional/technical/supervisory and non-represented support staff will receive the same salary increases and benefits for an average total compensation increase of 3.62%. The salary increase of 3.25% is retroactive to July 1.

In addition, the agreement increases the daily rate for long-term substitutes, those who work 16 or more days, by $10 to $40 a day, effective Nov. 16. Teachers who work for an hourly wage will get a $1 pay raise, going to $22 an hour.

The money due from the retroactive pay increases should come in employees’ November or December paychecks.

Paula Texel, associate superintendent for Human Resources Services, who explained the details of all the agreements, said bargaining was continuing with the Fraternal Order of Police. She said the plan was to have that agreement finished in time for approval at the December meeting.

School Board member Bill Dudley thanked staff for its work on the new agreements.

“I know it’s tough, having been on the other side,” he said.

Dudley is a former teacher and coach.

Now, that he’s a school board member he says he better understands the challenges of balancing the budget.

School Board Chair Rene Flowers also thanked staff, adding that she thinks $45,000 is a “very good salary” for starting teachers.

Dudley and Flowers are encouraging everyone to support Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to increase funding for education and teachers.

Flowers said she is glad everyone is getting a salary increase.

“This is a lovely Christmas gift,” she said.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.