Local News

Teachers, employees reach agreement with district

SEBRING - The teachers and school support staff unions have reached tentative agreements with the School Board of Highlands County. The teachers union and district agreed on a Performance Based Pay System to meet state statutes, according to a joint press release from the district and the Highlands County Education Association (teachers) and the Highlands County Educational Support Professionals Association. Teacher pay raises will be based on the individual's performance evaluation, with teachers rated "highly effective" during the 2012-13 school year receiving a $2,261 salary increase and those with an "effective" rating in the 2012-13 school year receiving a $1,773 increase. The amounts will be renegotiated annually. Cox and HCEA President Carla Rice said the whole negotiation process took just two short sessions and one long day-into-night session to complete.
The support union's tentative agreement calls for an average salary increase of 3 percent and other economic provisions that may be renegotiated annually, according to the press release. Britt elaborated on the tentative agreement. "We have tentatively agreed on a 'one-step increase' if you are eligible," she said. The district says each step is worth a 2 percent increase. They will be adding 1 percent to that to make a total of a 3 percent raise, Britt said. The employees who have completed all their steps (16 years and above) will receive a 3 percent increase, she said. If approved the increase will be retroactive from July 1, 2013. Cox and Britt said the tentative agreement was reached after one and one-half days of "concentrated, collaborative negotiations." Now that tentative agreements have been reached for both the associations, the employees will vote on their unit's respective contracts. Both Rice and Britt expressed confidence that ratification of the agreements will receive a majority of the employee votes cast. Neither association has yet to set the date of the ratification vote. Superintendent Cox indicated that members of the school board will review and vote on the tentative agreements in an upcoming school board meeting. He, too, expects the school board to vote to accept the agreements. The HCEA represents more than 800 teachers while the HCESPA represents more than 600 employees. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826