Contract agreements have been reached between the School District and United Teachers of Monroe union. However, the deals, affecting nearly 1,000 district employees, must still be ratified by the workers themselves.
The twin contracts, affecting teachers, and School Related Personnel, have been more than a year in the making, and were finally secured shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, at a closed-door executive session, between the UTM leadership, and Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter, at the district headquarters on Trumbo Road.
The meeting followed closely on the heels of another get-together, which was held earlier in the day between Porter and the school board. A third meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday in Marathon, hung over the negotiators heads, like the Sword of Damocles, at which settlements would have been imposed by the board; an outcome both sides wished to avoid.
The agreements were announced by the district in a press release sent out Monday evening.
"It has been a long process, but we are all relieved to finally see the distribution of nearly $1.25 million in new revenue from the State of Florida to our deserving employees," the release quoted Porter as saying.
The UTM President, Holly Hummel-Gorman sounded relieved to see the end of the at times bitter negotiations.
"I am grateful that the parties refused to give up on this deal," Holly Hummel-Gorman said. "The employees won a huge victory, successfully negotiating an agreement that was fair."
Now that the district and school board have given the deals their respective blessings, it falls to district teachers and other district employees to ratify the measures.
"I have several area meetings set up, where I'll give them the details of both contracts," Hummel-Gorman said. "Then the teachers will vote on their contract, and the other employees, food service personnel, maintenance, transportation and warehouse personnel, will get to vote on theirs."
The Middle Keys meeting will take place at 3:45 this afternoon, in the media center of Switlik Elementary School. The Upper Keys meeting is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Monday in the Media Center of the Plantation Key School. The Lower Keys meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, at Horace O'Bryant School. A final meeting will take place at 3:01 p.m. May 14, in the Media Center of Sugarloaf School.
Predictably it was contract language that would allow the district to impose cost savings measures such as furloughs, on its employees that was the final sticking point in the negotiations.
In the end though, the two sides managed to bridge that gap, according to District 2 school board member Andy Griffiths.
"The language in there was vague enough to satisfy the union that their rights were preserved, and specific enough to convince the board that our rights were preserved," Griffiths said Tuesday.
Among the other highlights of the agreement:
• Teachers will work one extra day for the 2013-14 school year only and will be paid their daily rate of pay for the extra day.
The 2.5 hour extension of the teacher workweek has been reduced to 2 hours.
• Teachers who teach in a Title One-designated school will be paid $200 more than they are currently paid.
• The UTM will reimburse the MCSD for Hummel-Gorman's salary and benefits.
• The new salary schedule has $1,500 added to the 2010-2011 slots plus daily rate of pay for one additional work day.