tampabay.com

Teachers, board still in talks

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published February 22, 2007


LAND O'LAKES - The race is on for Pasco County's teachers and School Board to reach a deal on teacher performance pay.

To qualify for the county's $3.5-million share of the $147-million that the state has set aside for bonuses, the district must submit an approved plan by March 1.

But while other districts have been voting their programs up or down, Pasco remained mired in negotiations well into Wednesday night.

"It seems like we are close on most issues, but there are two significant issues that we're still discussing and I'm not sure if we're going to be able to come to resolution on those two," said Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, after nearly six hours of talks.

First, the teachers wanted to use about $400,000 in the district's current performance pay plan to expand upon the state-required version. District negotiators balked, saying they are not in a position to do so.

Second, the teachers asked that the end-of-course exams that will go toward their performance evaluation be part of their students' grades. Otherwise, union lead negotiator Jim Ciadella said, students might have no incentive to do well on the tests that mean so much to teachers.

District negotiators didn't think that could happen. The test is only intended to measure teachers' performance, they said, and the grading criteria for students have already been established.

"We don't know when we're going to be giving the test or when we're going to get the results back," said human resources director Renee Sedlack. "As a parent I might be opposed to that."

Wednesday marked Pasco's fourth round of talks on Special Teachers Are Rewarded, or STAR, since December.

If the district does not submit a plan to the state by March 1, it could lose its STAR money and some of its lottery funds. In Pasco, that would be millions of dollars. The district would have to create and pay for its own performance-pay programs.