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TALC, district reach tentative contract agreement

By Staff | Oct 11, 2010

Teachers across Lee County will vote on a tentative agreement next week for a two-year contract that involves a salary increase, planning periods for secondary schools and full-time music and art in elementary schools.
The Teachers Association of Lee County and the school district’s bargaining team have reached a tentative agreement on a new two-year contract, which is based on the Interest Bargaining process.
Mark Castellano, president of the TALC, said they received a general favorable response and they are optimistic that it will be ratified.
“We are very pleased that the bargaining process worked,” he said, adding that although it’s not perfect, “In this day and age and in the economy we are in, we are pleased that we were able to get the contract that we got.”
The agreement includes a 20-step salary schedule that will include a 1 percent increase on an employee’s base pay for the current school year.
Castellano said although the teachers did not receive a raise last year, they received a 3 percent raise in 2008.
“They did get a 1 percent bonus at the end of the year,” he said.
Chief Human Resource Officer Dr. Greg Adkins said, for example, if teachers are at step 2 on the 20-step salary schedule this year, then they would receive a 1 percent step increase that would put them at approximately 1 percent more in base pay as they were last year.
Castellano said two other issues that are equally as important as the salary increase is planning periods for middle and high school teachers, along with implementing music and art all year long for elementary schools for the 2011-2012 school year.
Adkins said one of the priorities TALC brought forth was trying to bring back some form of planning during the middle of the day like it used to be.
He said in year’s past teachers have had a planning period during the day, which usually occurred during the students schedule.
“The past two years we have implemented a four-by-four block where teachers teach seven out of eight periods at secondary level, he said, which leaves teachers without planning for four periods.
Adkins said the block schedule is 82 minutes per period, which leaves students with meeting for the same class period every other day.
“Every other day they have a day without a break,” Castellano said about the teachers. “One week they have two days without a break and the next week they have three days without a break.”
He said without a break, they do not have time to do such things as grade papers, make phone calls to parents or time to go to the restroom during the day.
Adkins said the contract states that middle and high school teachers will have a minimum of 40 minutes planning during the student day.
Adkins said next year it is very likely that the school district will be going back on a schedule of having seven periods at the secondary level or some type of hybrid block system, which is yet to be determined.
He said that the elementary level is faced with the same issue of not having a planning period, which requires a different solution. The elementary teachers have kids for the entire day besides when they go to their art, P.E. and music classes.
Adkins said the amount of time teachers had for planning was cut down during the day due to art and music being cut in half.
Castellano said students had either art or music the first semester or the second semester for the past two years. He said next year students will receive both art and music throughout the year, which is what kids should be getting.
“We are encouraged that this is happening,” he said.
Diplomat Elementary School Principal Linda Caruso said she hopes the contract is ratified because the children need the arts in elementary school.
“Last year and this year we have dealt with arts and music part-time,” she said, adding that she understood it needed to be that way due to budget restraints.
Caruso said, “We are thrilled to have that reinstated” in the contract for ratification.
She said the children will benefit from having full-time music and art in their schedule because development comes in many modalities at a very young age.
“The arts really go hand-in-hand,” Caruso said.
The contract will allow the elementary level schools to restore art and music to a level they were two years ago, which will include full time art and music teachers.
“The teachers in the district came in with some major priorities that we were able to address and the contract for next year does include some additional planning,” Adkins said, “which is a good thing for student achievement.”
The tentative agreement pending ratification will go out to the teachers on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15 to be voted on with a final vote by the school board on Oct. 19.