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May, 2016

 Monday Afternoon, May 2nd—Tentative Agreements (TA’s) e-mailed to school board addresses

May 2nd – May 6th—Hard copies of the TA’s (2 sets will arrive at each work location)

Friday, May 13th, —Ballots will arrive at Worksites via courier

May 13th – May 23rd—Voting Window is open. Ballots due May 23rd (see next item)

Monday, May 23rd—Ballots due to the PEA office by 5 pm (time certain).

Please note courier run timing. To return ballots you may use the courier, US mail, or walk your ballot in to the PEA office but it must be here by 5pm on the 23rd to be counted.

Monday, May 23rd—Ballot Count begins at 5pm at the PEA office at 730 East Davidson St, Bartow. The vote count is open to any who wish to observe.

Tuesday, May 24th –Final Elections results given to School Board and Superintendent. Ratification concluded.*

*Upon acceptance of the TA the Step Increase, Raise, and Retro will be on the May check.  


april 22nd Bargain

April 23, 2016

This will be a brief update on the outcome of yesterday’s joint bargaining session. The Polk Education Association and the District are very close to settlement of the 2015-2016 Collective Bargaining Agreement. Again, there has been movement on money—remember we began with the offer that would have provided for bonuses at best—and are now close to a settlement that will include Steps and a modest raise for all teachers and support staff. We will meet again on Thursday, April 28th in a full day session and anticipate settlement.


Teacher evaluation language will remain in the contract. We are working out the final details of how we will implement the legislative changes that were made in last year’s legislative session. We are also finalizing the upcoming Pay for Performance salary schedule (that will begin next year) that is law in the state of Florida. We still believe there could likely to be a settlement of the 2 Unfair Labor Practices the PEA filed against the District without having to go back PERC.


When we settle this Thursday, and again I say this because we fully expect to settle on the 28th, we will alert you via your school board email address. We will give you the details of the ratification process and its timeline. We will also tell you when to expect ratification material to come to your school board email address. That material will include all of the contract language changes and salary changes PEA and the District have signed off on. We will also give details of the balloting process. Should everything continue on its current track it is our hope to complete ratification by mid-May.


I have had conversation with Superintendent Byrd and Michael Perrone, CFO, about getting the Step increase, raise, and retro pay on the first possible check after the completion of ratification. They are committed to working with us to make that happen. This would mean you would see your raises, should you approve the changes, prior to the end of this school year. As a reminder ratification includes both your vote and the School Board’s vote.


The PEA Bargaining team has been strong and diligent while advocating for those we represent. It is extraordinarily frustrating that this settlement comes so late in the school year. However, we have seen a positive change in the tenor of the bargaining table under the new leadership and hope that this change will lead to future bargaining being completed, if not by the beginning of the school year, certainly very early in the first semester.  




April 19, 2016

This is an update on the outcome of today’s Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Hearing. Prior to the start of the hearing both sides (PEA and the District) entered into a discussion surrounding potential resolution. It was agreed that there is a potential to resolve the issues raised in PEA’s charges at the bargaining table scheduled for April 22, this Friday. To preserve our position and our hearing rights, should we not be able to reach appropriate resolution, a new hearing date has been scheduled for May 5th at 9 am (time certain).


As PEA has reported there has been more positive movement at the bargaining table and the District’s objectionable Teacher Evaluation bargaining proposal has been jettisoned. Together we are currently working on new language and processes that will be more advantages to all instructional personnel, work within the parameters of Florida law, and give teachers more impact on their own evaluation. PEA will communicate after Friday’s bargaining session.  


April 15, 2016

The next bargaining date has been set for April 22nd. PEA and the district have scheduled to meet all day in an attempt to finalize bargaining so that we can bring it to you for ratification. Ms. Bryd and I spoke shortly after she became, at that time, the interim Superintendent and we discussed the issues causing the delays and disagreements at the bargaining table. It was a chasm, at that time impasse’ looked very likely. I am pleased to tell you that there has been movement on salary for teachers, paraeducators, and ESP and teacher evaluation issues and things seem to be moving in a more positive direction. She has made her staff available and worked with us on resolving issues surrounding teacher evaluations and other sticking points.


At the moment the district wants to sign off on money and evaluations at the same time. That is why we have pushed to have frequent meetings (several have been held) to try to find common ground. We are required by the State of Florida to have certain components in our evaluation systems and while much could be said about the concerns we have in the broken accountability system the state has instituted, we are working to put the fairest system we can in place. I get this question a lot so let me reiterate--when we settle this year’s bargain all steps and raises for teachers, paras, and ESP will be retroactive.  

Ms. Byrd and I have also had workload conversations and discussion around opening up communication. These have been positive and we will begin to work on solutions to the concerns you have shared. Wide ranging issues such as the culture of fear to things like pre-planning documents and lesson plans will be brought back to the forefront for discussion, and hopefully, resolution.


PEA has been, and will continue to be, a diligent, assertive, and persistent advocate on your behalf! Your wages, hours, and working conditions are important as they can impede or augment student learning. After all, your work environment is their learning environment! If you are a member of PEA I thank you and if you are not yet a member, I invite you to stand with us and join the only Association that impacts, on a daily basis, these issues. Our members are our strength and we are growing stronger daily.  


In Solidarity, Marianne  


March 16, 2016

I want to update you on our bargaining status. I am pleased to tell you that there has been a turn at the bargaining table. We have seen positive movement on both money and evaluations. We were at a place where impasse seemed likely. The district and PEA were millions of dollars apart monetarily and the district seemed cemented into a position PEA could never accept on teacher evaluations for ‘15-‘16 and ‘16-‘17 forward. I am now more hopeful that we will be able to reach agreement in the near future.


We have had 4 meetings with the upper administration in the district since the March 8 bargaining session regarding teacher evaluations. To put that in prospective, we have rarely met twice in one month this bargaining season. We have made substantial progress in working on a plan that meets the legal requirements of FL State Statutes and is as fair as possible to our teachers. The plan is to meet often to gain resolution so your bargaining team can sign off on a tentative agreement. Once we reach a tentative agreement we will announce that and then we can begin the ratification process. Please understand that we are not yet at that point but, we are moving as rapidly as possible, in that direction. The evaluation system will remain in the contract and you will continue to have the right to have your voice heard through the ratification process.


I would like to take a moment to thank the 1500+ teachers who responded the PEA evaluation survey. The overwhelming response was that maintaining contractual protection on this issue is very important to you and that you have serious concerns about testing. Neither of these results is surprising, but the validation helps as we move forward.


I would also be remiss if I did not thank the hundreds of teachers and support staff that answered PEA’s call and came and spoke with passion and professionalism at the November and February School Board meetings. You made a huge difference in this process! Several Board members have commented about how meaningful it was hearing from you. Solidarity is more than a buzz word and activism can change hearts and minds. I will keep you informed as we move forward.


In Solidarity, Marianne


Bargaining update - Friday, Feb. 19th

Evaluations: Your PEA bargaining team continues to fight for you and your rights at the bargaining table. What remains to be seen is will the district listen. Well over 1000 of you responded to the PEA survey about the importance of keeping your bargaining voice in the evaluation process and thus far it is clear that you feel it is vital. If you have not taken this survey there is still time! (see link) PEA has countered the district’s disheartening evaluation proposal with a proposal that complies with the law and keeps this within your rights to bargain wages, hours, working conditions and matters that impact these issues. We await the district’s response.


Salaries: The district and PEA are now $2,000,000.00 dollars apart regarding salaries. $2,000,000.00 in an over $1 Billion dollar district budget. The district’s current offer would give teachers a Step and a 1/2% (half of a percent). We believe the Board can and should do better! We were told that yesterday’s offer was the maximum amount of money that the School Board had approved to come to your bargaining table. We have asked the district’s CFO to go back to the Board and ask for the additional $2 million dollars. I have verified that the CFO is going to go the School Board in Executive Session on Tuesday February 23rd to discuss our request for additional funding. Please know that we are aware of the district’s budget and also of the state’s budget plan and we believe this not just financially doable but the right thing to do. That increase in funding would give teachers Steps and a 1.5% increase on top of their Step. The district asked your team to sign off yesterday “after all” they said, “all we needed to do was decrease each teacher’s raise by only $450.00”, and we, of course, said NO! We were told we could sign off on our support staff but, as usual, our teams stand together—all for one and one for all! We believe not funding this additional request would show a lack of understanding on the part of the district. With increased stress, increased workload, and no relief in sight this is the right thing for the Board to do! We have watched salary upgrades, new positions added, consultants and programs funded with seemingly little concern. However, getting the district to bring enough dollars to your bargaining table has been a long time in coming. We are glad that School Board members are praising School and Student gains and acknowledging that those gains came via the hard work of those in the classroom and all of those that support the classrooms, they need to understand that financial respect is essential! Please come to the 5 pm Tuesday, February 23rd School Board meeting as we will be speaking on the importance of a fair settlement.


 The next bargaining session is set for next Wed., Feb. 24th from 2:30pm to 7:30pm. The location is to be announced.


Remember to join us on the phone from the comfort of your home on Monday evening and in Bartow Tuesday at 4:30 pm at the School Board office –1915 South Floral Ave, Bartow 33831.  


Unfair Labor Practice Filed—Hearing Set

February 10, 2016

On December 10th, 2015 PEA filed and Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the District/Superintendent with the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) regarding their handling of the 2014-15 Evaluations, including reneging on the May 28th , 2015 Joint Memo sent to all teachers. On December 16th, 2016 PERC found the filing sufficient to be heard. We have a hearing set for Mar. 1st , 2016. We are currently in discussion with our attorney on additional concerns. To preserve due process rights while this case moves forward PEA is working with PEA’s teacher members as they access the Evaluation Appeal Process due to EPC’s, rankings, data, etc. We have over 190 Instructional members who filed their intent to appeal. On Friday, February 5th, 2016 PEA filed 7 class action grievances representing various groups of instructional personnel whose evaluations were not processed using the duly bargained contract language (i.e. use of non- approved data sources, unknown calculations, etc.). We are awaiting dates for these grievances.  


Bargaining Update

PEA is at the bargaining table and has a meeting set for February 10th to discuss salaries. We are currently preparing a counter to the last district offer---there were many questions PEA needed to clarify surrounding the district’s calculations. We simply did not feel that the numbers were correctly reflecting cost. We will keep you informed as we move forward. PEA is at the bargaining table regarding Teacher Evaluations on February 17th. The district brought forth a very troubling proposal at our last bargaining session. It would strip much of the evaluation system—and certainly much of the protection-- from your contract. Your PEA team sent out a survey asking you some questions surrounding this issue. If you have not yet answered please do so the link is below. It will literally take only a minute or two! We will continue to fight for fair, valid, and reliable evaluations! We will let you know how this progresses.

Survey URL link:  


PEA has been asked the following questions:

Q: “ How does a School Board Work Session differs from a School Board Meeting?” 

A: The Work Session is a time for the Board to have discussion with each other, there is no public input at a work session. They typically discuss items on the agenda for the next School Board Meeting; or they might discuss policies, possible purchases, programs, etc. School Board Members also can bring up issues, questions and concerns that they have and/or want the Board to consider. As Board members must govern in the Sunshine they cannot have private discussions with each other about school board business in venues other than announced work session or school board meetings Two exceptions are executive sessions where they can speak out of the “sunshine” to discuss bargaining parameters or an attorney/client session to discuss legal actions they are a party to . These are very narrow exemptions.

At a School Board Meeting there are two ways for the public to give input. At the beginning of the meeting there is a time for people who wish to speak for or against an agenda item coming up for a vote that evening. The second way comes at the end of the meeting where people have 3 minutes to discuss items not on the agenda. You may sign up in advance or come the night of the meeting.

Q: “ Can constituents speak with School Board Members individually on issues of concern before, after, or in between scheduled meetings?”

 The answer is yes. Sunshine Law impacts Board Member to Board Member communication. Individual citizens may communicate with an individual Board member/s and Board Member/s can speak/write back if they choose to do so. There are certain circumstances which impact these rules, pending litigation or contract impasse for example but, as a general rule, this is how it works.  


December 17, 2015

The Ledger wrote an editorial regarding the Superintendent's unilateral action on teacher evaluations. I sent them a response that has yet to be printed so I will share it here: 


Yes, teachers are extraordinarily upset by the about-face by the Polk County School District on including test scores in teacher evaluations – contrary to our legally binding agreement between the Polk Education Association and the district which is protected under the Florida Constitution. The Ledger’s editorial board may just “respect the sanctity of contracts to a degree,” but Polk’s teachers see it differently and value the constitutional right to bargain.  


Your editorial states that the contract should have been renegotiated. We agree. The first time PEA was given any notice that the district planned to renege on its agreement for the 2014-15 scores it made it May was November 12 of this year. There was not even a hint that there was an issue and, by the way, this law was in place when the joint memo was sent to teachers last May. In fact, PEA and the district have met to discuss 2015-16 evaluations teacher evaluations several times. However, that work has been hampered by evaluation committee meetings that have been canceled by the district. You’ve reported on that and PEA has pointed out that refusing to meet means many issues are left unsettled. Teacher evaluations are but one of those issues.


The district may find itself in a bind because the Florida Department of Education (DOE) is playing hard ball on evaluations. But it must shoulder its fair share of the blame. Why did they agree in the first place and why did they wait almost six months to alert us to this fateful decision?


Your editorial acknowledges some of the many problems with using standardized testing the way it is being misused in the state of Florida. Teacher evaluations are only part of the large testing problem you acknowledge. The test we’re using has plenty of flaws and the ratings used by the state to evaluate teachers based on the test scores have been widely panned. Even the people who created the formula the DOE uses cautioned against rating teachers the way the state does. Unfortunately it is Florida’s teachers who are left holding the bag.


As to your contention that the district must follow the law at all costs – even turning its back on a legally binding contract, what about following the law on class size? The Florida Constitution sets strict limits on the number of students in classes at all levels, but that law is routinely (conveniently?) ignored on a daily basis throughout the county and the state of Florida. The loopholes that are used are certainly not what the voters intended.


Yes, the district is in a bind. And the way out of the situation isn’t to ignore its contract with Polk teachers. It needs to honor its commitments and then come back to the bargaining table and work through this problem.

Marianne Capoziello  



November 10, 2015

Dear PEA Members, To the 250+ teachers, paras, and secretaries who came out to tonight’s School Board meeting thank you so much! You did PEA proud tonight! Your presence spoke volumes and your words were eloquent and heart felt. Your passion for your professions and your students rang clear and true. I was SO proud of you all for your courage, persistence, and professionalism. I can also tell you that several parents and even a handful of high school students came to support you as well.


To those of you who were unable to come because of tutoring, parent/ report card nights, second jobs, or family responsibilities you were missed but your spirit was there and well represented. We hope you get to see some of the media coverage, several TV stations and print media were there.


School Board Members thanked those present and several stated that it caused them to refocus their thoughts. Time will tell but they can certainly not say that they are unaware of the concerns. We have a bargaining date set for Nov. 18th and will also be following up on our evaluation concerns. PEA will keep you informed as we move forward. Please look for our emails.


For your knowledge we released the results of the PEA Stress Survey to the School Board and Superintendent tonight and to the Polk County Legislative Delegation yesterday afternoon at their annual meeting. Thank you to the 2703 who took time to take the survey. The results surrounding the increase in stress everybody is feeling and the numbers of teachers who are contemplating leaving the county, state, or education completely are staggering. The survey will be posted on our website tomorrow afternoon along with the press release that accompanied it.


I want to say that tonight we took a stand and to let you know that we may need to take several more. We need to stand for our professions, our students, and public education. We cannot shrink away from this important task-- the consequences are too great, our lively-hoods too important, and our students need us too much!


In Solidarity, Marianne  


November 6, 2015 defines ‘contract’ as: 1. an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified. agreement enforceable by law. 3.the written form of such an agreement.


Apparently, the District wants to just white out the word. As you may recall in my last message, I was somewhat optimistic but still concerned about the district not bringing a fair offer for a contract settlement.


Today I received a letter from the Superintendent, Kathy LeRoy, that she feels that our current evaluation system is in conflict with the state law and that unless she gets special permission from the Florida Legislature on this issue, that she will seek to set aside the evaluation portion of our contract for 2015-2016. This means that the district will simply rewrite the evaluation system to its own liking without ANY input from you at the bargaining table.


WE NEED YOU to come the November 10th, school board meeting at 5:00 pm in Bartow at the school board offices, 1915 S. Floral Avenue, Bartow 33830 and let the superintendent and the school board members know that delays and a unilaterally imposed evaluation process are UNACCEPTABLE (defined as NOT pleasing to the receiver; satisfactory; agreeable; or welcome)


 Bring your friends, Bring your children, bring your VOICE and let it be heard!  


November 5, 2015

Dear PEA Members,


I told you that a new offer was to come to our November 3rd bargaining table, but I cautioned you that whether the district would honor its commitment remained to be seen. Now we know the answer, they have not. Instead, at twenty minutes to two on Tuesday afternoon they asked us to counter our own proposal, while offering no additional conversation around money. This district seems to have forgotten that they have to bring a reasonable offer to the bargaining table! They state they have no direction from the school board on this issue! It’s November, the holidays are upon us and they have NO DIRECTION from the Board???!! !


I told you that a new offer was to come to our November 3rd bargaining table, but I cautioned you that whether the district would honor its commitment remained to be seen. Now we know the answer, they have not. Instead, at twenty minutes to two on Tuesday afternoon they asked us to counter our own proposal, while offering no additional conversation around money. This district seems to have forgotten that they have to bring a reasonable offer to the bargaining table! They state they have no direction from the school board on this issue! It’s November, the holidays are upon us and they have NO DIRECTION from the Board???!! !


Your PEA Bargaining Team is asking you to come and stand with them at the Nov. 10th, 5 pm School Board meeting-- Bring your signs, Bring your Friends and family, and Bring your voice! We know you are busy, we know you are stressed but we need you to come and take a stand for better wages and working conditions!


Teacher Evaluations — In our last email we reported to you the cancelation of the last Teacher Evaluation Advisory Comm. (TEAC) sub-committee meeting. That meeting was rescheduled and was held today. Preliminary discussions were held and some progress was made. The group, with the assistance of the NEA, is gathering data. The Nov. 19th TEAC meeting was canceled by the district and has been rescheduled for the 30th of November. The cancelation is troublesome, but a new meeting is on the books. The Teacher Evaluation Committee is now working on a two- pronged approach, what will be put in place for 2015-16 and what will be put in place for 2016-17. Please know that this Association, your bargaining team, and your elected officers have your back and will not settle for anything that does not meet a fair and valid professional standard!


I promised to keep you informed as we move forward and to let you know what we need from you. See you next Tuesday, November 10th! More information will follow.


In Solidarity,


PEA President