Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, June 19, 2014
District, union talk 2014-15 contracts

Now that the Monroe County School District and United Teachers of Monroe union have finally agreed upon an employee contract for the 2013-14 school year, both parties are ready to begin negotiating again.

The first collaborative bargaining session, aimed at producing a contract for the 2014-15 academic year, has been scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 p.m. June 26 in Room 6209 of the Marathon High School, 350 Sombrero Beach Road, Marathon.

On Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter said he intended to repeat his role as chief negotiator for the district, though he held open the possibility that other "internal resources" could be brought to bear on the talks.

He did, however, rule out the possibility of employing Miami labor lawyer Robert Norton, who in the past has helped draft imposed settlements, and who was brought in late last year after an agreement negotiated by the union and Porter fell apart.

Porter did say he felt the settlement agreed upon in May would be the starting point in the negotiations.

"Not just from a financial point of view, but also in the sense that we'll be starting from the climate of a negotiated agreement, instead of an imposed contract," he said.

The superintendent would not, however, predict a timeframe for a 2014-15 deal.

"I've been in the collaborative bargaining business too long to guess," Porter said. "I don't make any kind of final predictions, other than the optimism that we can get it done."

On the union side, President Holly Hummell-Gorman will represent the 1,000 or so district workers impacted by the negotiations, whether they are card-carrying UTM members or not. She'll be assisted by three teachers and a school-related personnel employee.

Hummell-Gorman also declined to say how long she expects to spend at the bargaining table this time around. She is forming an agenda, however.

"The UTM is in the process of identifying the issues that need to be addressed for 2014-15, which include statutory requirements for performance pay and 'grandfathered' salary schedules," she said.

District 3 board member Ed Davidson, who has emerged as almost a de facto opposition party within a board he has frequently voted against at recent meetings, was not pleased to hear that Porter would be in the driver's seat in the coming discussions.

"With regards to the prospect of Superintendent Porter conducting the next round of negotiations, that is exactly what caused the disastrous 11-month delay in getting our employees their long overdue raise," Davidson said. "Since all of the bargaining tactics and proposals originated with the superintendent, and the school board just went along with them, with calamitous result, I have no intention of letting that happen again -- or of bringing back the notoriously combative labor lawyer Robert Norton, who cost us well over $100,000, to craft an agreement that was good for a lousy three weeks after the board finally approved it."

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.

That contract will remain in effect until a new deal is reached and ratified by both parties.

According to that arrangement:

• Teachers worked one extra day during the 2013-14 school year and were paid their daily rate of pay for the extra day.

• The 2.5-hour extension of the teacher workweek was reduced to 2 hours.

• Teachers who teach in a Title One-designated school were paid $200 more than in the previous year.

• The UTM agreed to reimburse the MCSD for Hummell-Gorman's salary and benefits.

• The new salary schedule had $1,500 added to the 2010-11 slots, plus daily rate of pay for one additional work day

• Nonteaching district employees received a 2 percent raise.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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