Bay District Schools And Teacher's Union Negotiations At A Stand Still

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PANAMA CITY - Bay County school officials and representatives for the local teacher's union have met four times this fall to discuss how much money teachers will receive in the way of raises, and how they'll qualify for them.

The state is giving the school district about $4.5 million.

"We have not really disagreed on which groups will get the money. It's just a matter now of agreeing on the final amount," said Bay District Schools Chief Negotiator, Pat Martin.

Both sides agree qualifying teachers and school-based administrators will get raises. The school district wants to give $2,000 raises, including the step increase, only to those teachers deemed "effective" or "highly effective" on their evaluations.

"It's almost like a slap in the face to the teachers that the school board of bay county doesn't value the teachers more than that. They're not willing to make us a priority in their own budget," said Association of Bay County Educators (ABCE) Chief Negotiator, Cindy Fowler.

Instead ABCE is proposing $2,700 raises, including step increases for one year, for that same group of teachers.

Officials say that could put the district at future financial risk

"So the obligation is not just for this year, but it would be next year and years going forward and there is no guarantee about what the legislature is going to do as far as the amount of funding that we get," said Martin.

The other issue both sides are at a stand still about is step increases.

District officials also want to base step increases more on merit instead of seniority. Teacher's union reps are afraid of the step increase system going away completely.

"At the very least, well performing teachers did get their step. If this goes away, that won't be true in the future," said Fowler.

As far as the BESPA contract, employees will get a 3% pay increase and the district will pay for any increase in healthcare insurance rates.

The board unanimously approved the contract Tuesday afternoon. The majority of BESPA members also have to approve the deal.