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Teachers' pay plan revised
A key part of the proposal gives teachers the right to decide how they'll be evaluated.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 1, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Pasco teachers, who overwhelmingly rejected a performance pay plan in the spring, will get another chance to vote on the controversial idea before the end of the month.
The new plan, which the union and administration finished late Thursday, adds a provision that the past one lacked. Teachers now would be able to decide whether to be evaluated as individuals or as members of an instructional team.
Union lead negotiator Jim Ciadella called that addition key, saying that without it the sides might not have reached an agreement.
Also new to the plan would be locally generated end-of-course exams for teachers who do not teach FCAT-related subjects to administer. School Board members particularly balked at the idea of borrowing tests from other districts so they could determine how Pasco teachers' classes were doing.
Student performance on such assessments, including learning gains, would account for 75 percent of a teacher's rating under the proposal. The teacher's job evaluation would make up the other 25 percent.
The bonuses would be about 5 percent of an average Pasco teacher's salary, going to about one quarter of the staff.
"Information will be prepared to go out to the teachers and administrators concerning the details," said Terry Rhum, the district's lead negotiator. "It should be presented to the instructional bargaining unit and the School Board for ratification within the next two to three weeks."
Ciadella expressed some concerns that the plan would not reach enough teachers, but noted that the state provided for nothing more. Given the state restraints, he said, "we believe we crafted as good a plan as possible."
Neither he nor union president Lynne Webb went so far as to endorse or oppose the proposal, though. They strongly opposed the plan that came out in the spring.
"Let the teachers vote their conscience," Webb said. "Our teachers seem to indicate that they want to have a plan they could weigh in on."
She would not predict the outcome. But she did expect that the concept might fall flat.
"Performance pay is on its way," Webb said. "However, I still think that as long as the Legislature continues meddling in performance pay and doesn't give unions and districts true flexibility, it probably will not succeed."
School Board members said they were pleased that the sides had reached a new tentative agreement. They looked forward to their chance to weigh in, too.
Chairwoman Marge Whaley remained steadfastly against the performance pay.
"It is unfair and it causes acrimony among teachers," she said. "Basing everything on a test score, on how a kid does, to me is just wrong."
Vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey, who joined Whaley in voting down performance pay last spring, was more willing to reconsider.
"I didn't like the other one. But I am supportive of merit pay," Starkey said. "I think the devil is in the details. I'm glad it appears we have worked something out. That's a lot of money, and I'd like our teachers to get every penny they deserve."
Board member Frank Parker, who supported the original plan, noted that now, with state revenue tight, many school officials including Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino have urged lawmakers to put off implementing the pay program. Failing that, he said, the district should forge ahead.
"If we get the right plan, the right methodology, then yes, we should move forward with something," Parker said.
To qualify for the money, the district must submit a ratified plan to the state by Oct. 1. The district does not have to participate.
Pinellas County teachers have voted against collecting state-funded merit pay. Hillsborough teachers, by contrast, were the first in Florida to win state approval; they received their bonuses on Friday.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or 813 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.