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Negotiators for Broward teachers reach first contract agreement in three years

Posted on 18 August 2011 by LeslieM

From the Broward Teacher’s Union:

Officials with the Broward Teachers Union and the School Board of Broward County announced the first teacher tentative contract agreement in three years today during a joint press conference. With the tentative agreement comes $60 million in federal Race to the Top and School Improvement funds for Broward schools to implement new state and federal program requirements; $500 bonuses and no furloughs for the district’s 14,470 teachers.

“We are pleased to announce this tentative agreement was reached just three days before our members’ students arrive for the new school year,” BTU President Pat Santeramo said. “Negotiators had to consider that districts throughout the state are offering no pay increases for education professionals and many are asking teachers to take salary cuts through furloughs. This is the best possible agreement – albeit far from perfect — considering that we are in the worst economic downturn the State of Florida and the United States has experienced in decades.”

All members of the Broward Teachers Union Education Professionals Bargaining Unit will have the opportunity to review the tentative agreement, which is provided in outline form below, and vote electronically online in the coming weeks to approve or disapprove it.

Prior to his resignation, Superintendent Jim Notter had declared an impasse in contract negotiations for the second year in a row. The BTU had declared impasse the year prior to that. However, with the cooperation of his temporary replacement, Acting Superintendent Donnie Carter, the School Board named Employee Relations Specialist Dorothy Davis as the district’s new chief negotiator. BTU President Pat Santeramo, in turn, named the union’s Director of Field Services George Segna as the union’s new chief negotiator.

The two chief negotiators along with their teams were able to reach an agreement that closely approximates those offered in Miami-Dade and West Palm Beach schools and betters most other agreements reached by districts in the state. Miami-Dade teachers agreed to no raise, but also no furloughs or layoffs. West Palm Beach teachers agreed to a $500 bonus as well as no furloughs or layoffs. Nearly all school districts in the state have experienced disappointing increases in class sizes and horrific cuts to programs such as art, music, physical education, library media and guidance counseling among many others.

In exchange for no furloughs that will affect all other district employees, Broward teachers must agree to exchange two days off with pay during the Thanksgiving Holiday Week for completing a training checklist of new evaluation requirements stipulated by the federal Race to the Top program and the state’s new Senate Bill 736. Teachers are the only district staff members required by the state and federal government to complete the additional training.

Riding on the ability of the two sides to reach an agreement was $37 million in federal Race to the Top education funding and $23 million School Improvement Grant funds. The union must sign off on the district’s RT3 plan by Sept. 30 or the district would have likely not received the money, but due to Florida Senate Bill 736 would still have been required to implement many of its provisions. According to the district’s plan, the federal funds will be used to pay for the grant program’s requirements. As part of the contract agreement, committees consisting of district and union members will study the program’s plan as well as other important district issues.

Again, many of the Race to the Top Program’s requirements are included in Florida’s new Student Success Act (SB 736), which must be implemented per law, but state legislators provided no state funding for districts to do so. The state’s unfunded mandate would have drained millions of dollars from the district’s budget.

Many teachers have expressed interest in a Retirement Assistance Program (RAP) because they would like to leave the district through retirement, but cannot afford to do so. Negotiators agreed to form a committee to research the feasibility of a Retirement Assistance Program and to propose recommendations for implementing modifications for contract provisions that are required. The research and recommendations of the committee shall be rendered to the Superintendent and BTU’s President no later than January 31, 2012.

The following is a basic and preliminary BTU only outline of the agreement:

I. 2010 – 2011 School Year

1. No salary increase for the 2010-2011 school year.

2. SBBC will withdraw the Impasse declaration on the 2010-2011contract and, upon ratification and School Board approval of the Agreement, the parties can mutually agree to cancel the Impasse Hearing.

3. The parties will honor the Tentative Agreements (TAs) reached during the 2010-2011 EP Negotiations sessions.

4. The parties agree to sign off on an MOU authorizing committees to address:

a. Senate Bill 736 (Student Success Act)

b. The components of Race to the Top (RTTT)

c. Student Improvement Grant (SIG)

d. Differentiated Accountability (DA)

The committee makeup for the above mentioned committees will consist of an equal number from each party including current bargaining unit members and access to other experts in their respective fields.  The committee members shall be charged with reviewing issues related to their committees’ respective subjects and proposing recommendations for implementing modifications of contract revisions that are required by legislative mandates.  The recommendations of the committees shall be returned to the parties for negotiations no later than December 15, 2011.  The BTU agrees to enter into a signed agreement for the RTTT and SIG prior to September 15, 2011.

5. Suspend the provisions of Article 23(D)(17), Teacher Directed Improvement Funds, for the 2011-2012 school year.

6. The parties agree to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to conclude the 2010-2011 EP Negotiations with no changes in the contract language.  Tentative Agreements reached during these negotiations will roll over to the 2011-2012 school year.

II. 2011- 2012 School Year

1. All teachers will receive a one-time $500 bonus payment for the 2011-2012 school year.

2. All teachers will be required to take two (2) days off during the 2011-2012 school year (to be taken the Monday and Tuesday during the Thanksgiving week.)

3. Due to new evaluation requirements in the Student Success Act (SB 736), teachers may participate in two (2) paid days of training as a Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative.  For participating in training / study / activities related to the new evaluation system developed jointly with BTU, teachers shall be compensated at their hourly rate for the aforementioned training.  Failure to submit documentation of completion of the training/study/activities by May 14, 2012 shall result in the docking of salary for those days.  Such docking of salary shall not be subject to the overpayment provisions contained in Article 19, Section Q.

4. An employee may be employed in a teaching position outside of the District while on a Board approved leave of absence.

5. The District agrees to continue to pay 100% of the cost for HMO and Consumer Driven Plans (employee only) and to follow the funding formula in the contract for health insurance premiums for the 2011-2012 school year.

6. The contract term will be three years (August 13, 2011 through August 15, 2014) with reopeners for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years limited to recommendations of committees, two articles, insurance, and salary.   For the 2011-2012 school year reopeners will be limited to any articles needed to comply with recommendations of committees to comply with legislative mandates.

7. The parties agree to form a committee to research the feasibility of a Retirement Assistance Program (RAP) and proposing recommendations for implementing modifications for contract provisions that are required.  The research and recommendations of the committee shall be rendered to the Superintendent and the President of the BTU no later than January 31, 2012.

8. The parties agree to conduct a Joint Training for Principals and one (1) Steward from each school on the new evaluation process at a mutually agreeable date, time and location.

9. The parties agree to extend the MOU regarding Article 25 and Article 26 through 2011-2012 with an expansion of the participants and the revision of the deadline.

10. The parties agree to an MOU to develop Appendix Q (which may be renumbered) regarding requirements for seclusion and restraint of students required by Florida Statute.

As additional information becomes available about the upcoming electronic online contract ratification and related documents, it will be provided and posted online at www.BTUonline.com.

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Broward Schools joins lawsuit against retirement income tax imposed by Tallahassee

Posted on 20 June 2011 by LeslieM

FORT LAUDERDALE, May 20, 2011 – Members of the Broward Teachers Union have joined Florida public employees in filing a lawsuit today in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee to stop the 3 percent pay cut otherwise known as a mandatory retirement income tax on school employees and other workers imposed by Governor Rick Scott following this year’s legislative session.

BTU President Pat Santeramo said Tallahassee Lawyer Ron Meyer on behalf of the union’s state affiliate, the Florida Education Association, filed the lawsuit today because the 3 percent mandatory retirement income tax, which amounts to a pay cut from school employees as “contributions” toward their Florida Retirement System (FRS) benefits, is unconstitutional.

“Florida’s leaders talk ad nauseam about the need to cut taxes for businesses and the state’s wealthiest residents and yet, when it comes to our police officers, firefighters and teachers, they didn’t even blink an eye when imposing this income tax increase,” Santeramo said. “Under the false premise of a retirement pension contribution, the governor and legislators are doing nothing more than trying to balance the state’s budget on the backs of public employees.”

The lawsuit alleges Florida law provides that the Florida Retirement System is one in which employees do not have to contribute part of their salaries and describes that as a contractual obligation of the State. The suit claims that the Legislature’s action unconstitutionally impairs those contractual rights.

The FRS collects retirement money for more than 900 state and local government employers in the state, covering 655,000 active employee members and providing benefits to 219,000 retired members. It has been a non-contributory plan since 1974.

The lawsuit names Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and John Miles, secretary of the Department of Management Services, as defendants in the lawsuit. Scott, Atwater and Bondi are the members of the State Board of Administration that is responsible for overseeing the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund and Miles runs the agency that oversees the fund.

Meyer will be representing BTU and FEA’s members in the lawsuit. He is requesting the court to segregate the money it collects from the 3 percent pay cuts and place it in an interest bearing account until the lawsuit is fully settled. If the court agrees with the claims, teachers, school employees and other public workers would receive their money back with interest.

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Broward School Board Names Chief Operations Officer Interim Superintendent

Posted on 08 June 2011 by LeslieM

The School Board of Broward County, Florida, today, named Donnie Carter to serve as Interim Superintendent, taking over from Superintendent James F. Notter, who is retiring from the School District on June 30. Carter is currently Chief Operations Officer for the Broward County Public Schools.

“After 10 years with the Broward County Public Schools, I am absolutely thrilled to lead our District at this time,” said Carter. “My priorities will be to keep our momentum while providing stability, and preparing for a smooth back to school for next year.”

Carter indicates that he will work collaboratively with the School Board and the District’s executive leadership team to ensure a smooth transition. His considers it a challenge to maintain a high level of service, while operating with fewer resources in the wake of a $141 million budget shortfall for next year.

School Board Names Chief Operations Officer Interim Superintendent

Carter, who has over 20 years experience in public education administration, has spent the last 10 years at BCPS. He has served in the position of Chief Operations Officer since 2007. Prior to joining the District, Carter served in administration at Miami-Dade Public Schools.

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Broward Schools using Furlough Days to save over $4.5 Million

Posted on 26 May 2011 by LeslieM

More than 800 Broward County Public Schools administrators will receive notices of furlough days for the 2011/2012 school year as part of an effort to help close the budget deficit of $141 million. Superintendent James F. Notter, today, provided notice to the leadership of the District and school administrators’ groups about the number of furlough days.

“These actions are being taken to help mitigate the anticipated budget shortfall that the District is facing,” said Superintendent Notter.

Central and area office administrators and principals will have 15 furlough days and assistant principals will have 10 furlough days for the 2011/2012 school year.  This would be the equivalent of a four to six per cent decrease in salaries for a total of $4,553,085.

The furloughs will impact 212 District administrators, 229 principals and 430 assistant principals.  Also, to maximize the savings in energy, the dates for furlough days will be standardized to the closing of schools and District sites.

District officials will initiate discussions with unions to finalize the number of furlough days for their respective groups. District and school administrators, however, will experience the greatest impact of the furloughs to help shoulder the burden of the State budget reductions.

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