Superintendent rejects requests by Pasco school union
LAND O' LAKES - Elementary school teachers who sought relief from what they said has become a growing workload over the years may not find the going easier any time soon. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, in her response to two grievances filed by United School Employees of Pasco, largely decided to keep things as they are, though she vowed the district would work with the union to address any contract violations at specific schools. Union president Lynne Webb said Tuesday the group's next move could be to appeal to the school board. She said before that happens, the union might also have the opportunity to discuss the concerns with the incoming superintendent, Kurt Browning, who takes office Nov. 20. The union filed two grievances last month on behalf of more than 1,300 Pasco County elementary teachers who said they decided they have had enough of the testing, paperwork and meetings they say dominate their lives and steal time they could use for planning lessons and teaching.The teachers also argued the extra work encroaches on their family time and, in some cases, affects their health. Fiorentino heard testimony about those grievances Nov. 1 and provided her response to the union Monday. She said much of the testing is necessary because of statutes or rules on student assessment. "There is no question that the nature of the work in education is changing and that there is an ever-increasing push for districts, schools and teachers to allow for data to drive the educational decisions and programs in our schools," Fiorentino wrote. She disagreed with a union contention that schools aren't providing teachers with the amount of planning time required by the union contract. The union had sought compensation for the extra work it says elementary teachers are doing, including two paid days off for each teacher and an extra half-hour of pay per day for the school year. Fiorentino said the district couldn't meet those demands "without further exacerbating the budget shortfall." Fiorentino also wrote that throughout the grievances there was discussion about general issues or concerns, but little was discussed about specific incidents of contract violations at schools. "If USEP can provide more details into specific situations where they believe that contract violations may be occurring, the district will be in a better position to provide relief for those specific concerns," she wrote. Webb said the grievance didn't dwell on specific instances because the point was that these are district-wide problems that teachers throughout Pasco are experiencing.
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