Teacher’s union, district completes bargaining

SUN Englewood | by Brianna Kwasnik | October 26, 2020

SARASOTA — The Sarasota County school district has concluded a successful bargaining session with the Sarasota Classified Teacher’s Association to establish a contract with teachers.

Beginning teachers in the district will now receive a starting salary of $47,500 in compliance with state law, the agreement states.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in June raising the starting pay for a teacher in the state $47,500.

Previously, the starting salary in Sarasota County was $44,300.

The total package includes a minimum 3% raise across the board, which includes both teachers and classified staff, with some beginning teachers and food service staff receiving larger increases, a statement released by SC/TA executive director Barry Dubin noted.

Dubin explained that employees receive a .5% retention increase for returning another year.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the average salary for an instructional staff member in Sarasota County is $59,617.54, based on an employment length of 10 months.

The agreement between the union and the district is retroactive to July 1, 2020, and will include the extra five workdays instructional and many classified staff members worked in August.

The raise was provided by the state in a special categorical fund, Dubin stated. In the contract language, it states that should the state take away this money, the district and the teacher’s union will return to the bargaining table. Dubin stated the union doesn’t foresee this happening.

Discussions during bargaining sessions also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and its affect on employees. Under the proposed contract, employees will receive up to 20 COVID-19 days, where they will not have to use their sick time due to a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine. The contract also allows for employees under a mandatory quarantine to be able to work from home whenever possible.

“If you’re being told by your employer you can’t come to work, it seems to wrong to charge them for a sick day,” Dubin said.

He added that the need for substitute teachers in the district shouldn’t present an issue, as the Covid days will allow those who can work from home to do so, and if not, it would cover them for up to two quarantine periods.

The Sarasota County School District Transparency group posted allegations to their Facebook page that the SC/TA asked teachers to email in support of the mandate.

“Teachers who are already on their way out and set to retire joined forces with the SC/TA to write emails and threatened to quit if our children weren’t muzzled through the end of the school year into 2021,” the anonymous-led group wrote on Facebook.

Dubin said this claim is entirely untrue. The SC/TA did not target any particular group, but did encourage them to make their voices heard to the School Board.

“Apparently that group thinks only they can put pressure on school board members,” he said.

He added that the negotiations for this year were “push-through,” the funds were dedicated categorically and provided by the state.

“The district is slowly recapturing its cooperative spirit under the new superintendent, Brennan Asplen,” Dubin wrote. “He has given all of us hope that our district can once again regain its former greatness, where we all work together toward a common goal.”

Dubin said the SC/TA will vote on the contract Nov. 8 and 9.

“I appreciate the SC/TA’s collaboration in reaching an agreement that is beneficial to all in the district,” said superintendent Brennan Asplen.

“This cooperation is reflective of the positive environment in keeping with the tradition of hard work, compassion, and dedication that all employees of the district have displayed both then and now, particularly amidst the opening of school in this unique year,” said Asplen.

Dubin estimates the board will vote on the contract at their Nov. 10 board meeting. He said he sees no reason the contract wouldn’t be approved as it’s presented. This will allow for employees to see their pay increases in their checks prior to the winter break.

Photo: SUN file photo by Alexandra Herrera.

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