Florida Keys News
Thursday, June 5, 2014
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District deal passes DOE
Funds need to be approved

The last-minute deal struck by the Monroe County School District and the United Teachers of Monroe (UTM) has been approved by the state Department of Education -- despite the concerns of some local education advocates that it might falter.

A spokeswoman for the DOE confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the agreement had been approved.

"We're just glad that the teachers and other district employees will get their well-deserved pay raise," said Claudia Claussen of the DOE.

Stuart Kessler, who serves as the chair of the school district's Audit and Finance Committee, said Wednesday that he had been concerned about a possible rejection of the deal, or adjustments to it by the DOE. In recent days, however, he said Tallahassee bureaucrats, who he would not name, assured him the deal would most likely be approved in time for the raises to be preserved.

The deal, on how to distribute the $1.25 million in Teacher Salary Allocation funds (known colloquially as The Governor's Money), was contained in the 2013-14 school year contract concluded last month. The money must be distributed to employees by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, or it reverts back to the state.

The DOE had to approve the use of the funds, and the contract itself, because the agreement was reached during a state of impasse between the district and union.

However, concerns about the delivery of the deal to Tallahassee were raised by District 3 School Board member Ed Davidson at the last board meeting. Both Davidson and Kessler were concerned that the agreement between the district and UTM might actually be rejected, or at least modified, by DOE staffers, on technical grounds.

"There were two issues here," said Kessler, who is running for the District 1 school board seat being vacated by Robin Smith-Martin. "First of all, you're supposed to send the DOE an itemized list of what you're going to be spending the money on. The district didn't do that, and last week the district was told to resubmit the Teacher Salary Allocation Cover Sheet with the itemized information.

"Secondly, there was some question as to whether the governor's allocation could be used to purchase an additional day of work from the teachers, at a cost of $200,000," Kessler said. "My understanding is that [the DOE] decided to let it slide because it was so late, and there was concern that there wasn't time to change it."

At presstime Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter hadn't responded to a call requesting comment.

The agreement between the UTM and the district was struck in early May after more than a year of negotiations, and nearly 30 collaborative bargaining sessions.

Highlights of the deal include:

-- 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 2010-11 slots, plus daily rate of pay for one additional work day.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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