Contract talks between Florida Teachers Association and the school district are stalled Dispute will now be settled by a mutually agreed upon mediator
Negotiations between the Florida Teachers Association and the Florida School District are at an impasse and both sides have agreed to seek a mediator to settle the differences. The sign, "Fair Deal Now," represents the sentiments of union members.
By Bob Quinn FLORIDA — The 141-member Florida Teachers Association and the Florida School District are at an impasse in contract negotiations, meaning both sides will seek a mediator to kick start talks. The union, which represents teachers as well as support staff including secretaries and bus drivers among others, is working under a contract that will expire this coming June 30. Union representative Frank Gannon said in an interview Wednesday that talks have broken down. He said mediation is a means to find middle ground between the two sides. What the Florida Teachers Association seeks in a pay raise, Gannon said, “is the going rate in Orange County.” That, he said, was an annual increase of 2 percent. As do all teachers’ contracts, the pact assigns steps to pay grades based on legth of service and academic achievement such as a Master’s Degree or higher. Gannon said that in many of the pay grade steps for longer tenured teachers, the Florida School District ranks last among Orange County teacher contracts. “We believe 2 percent is sustainable,” Gannon, an English teacher, said. Superintendent of Schools Jan Jehring said in an interview later Wednesday that she believed there would be ample time between now and when the contract expired to negotiate a new deal. The negotiations, she added, involve more than salary issues. “Health insurance, for instance,” Jehring said. “The district wants a fair deal for the union,” she said, “while also being responsible for the community.” In a subsequent email exchange with The Warwick Adv ertiser, Jehring added the following: "I think it is important to recognize that a settlement involves much more than the 2 percent increase. For example, a 2 percent increase is in addition to the increment that is built into the contract. There are also many other fixed costs when added together would be in excess of 4 percent. At this point the union made many additional financial demands beyond salary and since the proposals were so far apart we mutually agreed to declare impasse and arrange for a mediator to step in and assist us in settling the contract. "The district has no plan to address the subjects of negotiations publicly in order to give the mediator a fair chance to resolve the impasse," the superintendent said. "Since the current contract runs through June, there is ample time to negotiate a fair settlement." The Florida School District has about 840 students who are served in two school buildings: Golden Hill Elementary (pre-K through grade 5) and S.S. Seward Institute (grades 6-12). Teachers are prohited from striking under New York State’s Taylor Law.