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School Board approves Teamsters pact

The blue-collar workers' first contract includes retroactive pay and raises that will cost the district $735,000.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


INVERNESS -- Nearly three years after negotiations began, blue-collar employees of the Citrus County school district have their first contract.

The School Board accepted the pact with a unanimous vote Tuesday, along with a two-year retroactive pay package averaging more than $1,000 each for the district's more than 400 bus drivers, mechanics, custodians, maintenance and food service workers represented by Teamsters Local 79.

The workers overwhelmingly accepted the contract last week in a 311-29 vote.

School Board members had a few last-minute questions about the contract Tuesday.

Board member Pat Deutschman asked about the cost of the pay raise package, which topped $735,000, and Superintendent Pete Kelly said some of the last-minute glitches in the pay proposal were being worked out. But the package was within $20,000 of what had been projected. Parts of the three-year contract will be reopened annually to negotiate pay and possibly benefits. Pay raises depend on worker classifications and experience. Deutschman also questioned what would happen with employees who had retired from the district while the contract was being negotiated.

But school officials said the pact affects only employees who were working for the system on July 1 this year.

Other questions focused on the terms and intent of some of the 26-page contract. The board's attorney, Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick, told the board they shouldn't make changes in the approved contract or it might have to go back through the ratification process. But he did suggest a memo of understanding to clear up some confusion about wording.

Both Teamsters agent Bob Meeks and chief administration negotiator Ed Murphy thanked their teams for nearly three years of hard work.

Board member Patience Nave said some things are worth the wait.

"We all live in a time when we want our five-minute personal pan pizza, but sometimes the things that are the best are those that require a long-term commitment," she said.

In other business:

CLASS SCHEDULING: Cassandra Wims, the mother of three sons, told the board she was concerned about high school class schedules. One of her boys attending Crystal River High School is taking the first half of the required Algebra I course, but cannot take the second half until the second semester next year.

That would mean that he could not take geometry until a year later. Yet in his sophomore year, he will take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which tests both algebra and geometry skills.

Wims said she didn't understand why the schedule was set up in that way, and school officials had blamed lack of money for sufficient staff for the problem.

School Board Chairwoman Sandra "Sam" Himmel said the board would fix the problem, and Kelly agreed. He said the district was aware of scheduling difficulties in the English department, but hadn't known of math scheduling problems.

STONE STEPS DOWN: Board members said their farewells to departing member Mark Stone, who resigned as of early next month. Stone had left in the middle of his second term to run for tax collector, but was eliminated from the running in the September primary.

Himmel thanked Stone for his work, especially his ability to close lengthy board discussions.

Deutschman thanked Stone for making the building of the Forest Ridge Elementary School a priority during his last campaign and in his work as a board member.

"I'd also like to express my appreciation to Mr. Stone," Kelly said. "He has been extremely helpful. He's been a rock here. . . . Thank you."

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