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Degrees not debt




October 13, 2017

I have been asked if teachers can wear shirts with slogans regarding Impasse, or wave signs in protest and the answer is ‘no’ as it is school time. However, after the events of this week, I am asking you to stand with your PEA Bargaining team and SIT IN SILENT SOLIDARITY! Any time a School Board Official speaks, remain seated, do not cheer and do not clap. Sit in “respectful” silence.




You cannot get in trouble or be disciplined for sitting in silence. You cannot be mandated to clap or cheer and you cannot be required to be peppy! It is your personal choice.


A few caveats:

  • Please stand for the Pledge

  • Please be respectful and responsive the guest speakers as they are not involved in this dispute. My understanding is they are bringing an inspiring message of the power of positive relationships and respect. It is my hope that the district’s officials will heed the message as well.

  • Of course I hope you all stand up for yourselves by taking a seat. We need the district to “hear”, that in this time of teacher shortages and unrest, they must respect those who make this mission possible! However, I ask you not be disrespectful to those who might choose to stand or clap that is their right.  

In Solidarity,




October 13, 2017

Dear PEA Members,

As I am getting many calls and emails regarding the AFSCME settlement announced by the Superintendent yesterday afternoon I am sending this as a clarification:

The settlement only impacts employees represented by AFSCME. As I understand it the district offered them an additional half percent (from a 1 percent it is now 1.5%) and an attendance bonus for their bus drivers. Their raise will not be retroactive for the 16-17 School Year. I do not know what CBA language was at their bargaining table. It was the AFSCME team’s decision to accept this proposal and I wish them well.

To BE CLEAR---No additional wages have been offered to teachers, paraprofessionals, or secretaries.

The offer for PEA remains as follows: The PEA bargaining team made a proposal to limit the contract changes proposed by the District and use the 2% recommendation of the Special Magistrate to possibly settle both 16-17 and 17-18 with some wage increases in each year. This was discussed, however when the District finally put their counter offer in writing it was to keep the freeze in place for 16-17 to all wages and implement a 1% increase to wages for 17-18 for all support staff, increase all grandfather teacher salaries by $899 and pay Performance increases to annual contract teachers of $1200 for Highly Effective and $900 for Effective.  

It is time to “stand together”. 

In Solidarity,




August 7, 2017

The decision of the Special Magistrate arrived on Monday, August 7, 2017. PEA is pleased to note that the Special Magistrate overwhelmingly decided in favor of the Union’s position. The five issues that were in front of the Special Magistrate were 1) Salaries 2) Advanced Degrees 3) Health Insurance—The Superintendent’s Insurance Committee and the Bargaining Timeline for Health Insurance 4) Teacher Evaluations—Removal of the Appendix M (The Evaluation Manual) 5) Mid-Year Teacher Transfers.



The Union Proposal was for an overall 2.87% increase, including steps and performance pay increases. The factors that the Special Magistrate considered were the Local Operation Area, Comparisons, Interest and Welfare of the Public, Comparison of Employment and Availability of Funds. On the Availability of Funds the Special Magistrate concluded that the District has money for a salary increase for 2016-2017. After reviewing the Local Operating Area comparables provided by the Union, the Special Magistrate determined that an increase of 2% is a comparable to other counties and that is his recommendation.  



The Special Magistrate recommends that the District and PEA retain the current language contained in the collective bargaining agreement. The Special Magistrate relied on the previously won grievance arbitration that was subsequently upheld by the Circuit Court and the District Court of Appeals. This means that all advanced degree supplements should remain as they are in the contract.  



PEA and the district were able to come to tentative agreement on the benefit structure and premiums for the 2016-2017 school year. What remained at odds was the district’s plan to cease operating the Superintendent’s Insurance Committee. A committee that PEA felt was a valuable outlet to review employee health and wellness options, discuss the bid process for insurances, and receive insight from a myriad of employee voices that were represented on the committee. The Magistrate has recommended the committee be retained as this committee does perform vital functions for ensuring a sustainable health care plan. The district and PEA both agreed that health insurance negotiations needed to begin more timely and had discussed the timeline ultimately recommended by the Special Magistrate. In fact PEA has already asked to begin 2017-18 negotiations on this issue.



 The District has proposed removing the entire Evaluation Manual from the Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreement, calling it cumbersome and unwieldy. The Special Magistrate does not recommend the removal of the document, but instead recommends that we adjust the timelines for making changes to the document to meet the Florida Department of Education timelines for reporting as this document does contain items that are subject to bargaining.  



The District language that they took to impasse involves restricting teacher transfers to the summer months only with the only exceptions being for hardship or promotion. This is the language that the Special Magistrate has upheld this recommendation.


The district and PEA bargaining team will now need to meet to review the ruling and determine how to proceed. Marianne Capoziello, PEA President stated “the Association stands ready to work to bring the 2016-17 Impasse to conclusion”. “An independent Magistrate has reviewed all of the information presented by both sides and has issued a fair and unbiased ruling, let us hope that the decision makers see the wisdom in finding settlement and moving on” she concluded.  


August 2, 2017

All the briefs by the attorneys were filed on July 10th (the due date set by the Magistrate). The Magistrate’s ruling can come in at any time now. Once the ruling is in there is a 20 day period for both sides to file “exceptions” to his ruling and to set a “Legislative Hearing” before the School Board. At this hearing the School Board impanels itself as an “independent body” and decides to accept or reject the Magistrate’s settlement. This is Florida Labor Law. It is an absurdity, but this is the process that is given to us.


When we know the Magistrate’s ruling, we will notify you. When we know the date of the hearing, we will notify you. We are asking that as many teachers and support staff attend this hearing as possible. The School Board needs to be looking at a sea of faces as they consider their ruling. We will also let you know when there are additional actions we need you to take. We ask you to stand with your PEA bargaining team; this process is frustrating for all. It is long and it is fraught with wrong thinking—but it is the law we have to work with in this state. These are complex times and the issues are many and PEA is fighting on your behalf on all fronts.


If it were not for this Association these actions of contract stripping, and wages freezes would have been done without any fight at all. You also would have had a 13 million dollar shift in health care costs onto the backs of our employees, which we were able to stop. It is time to stand strong and fight on! If not us who, if not now when? The battles are on several levels and we must engage. PEA will never give up on our members, their families, or our students.


You are all too important to give up on. We will fight for public education and those that work on behalf of our students. We are teachers, instructional staff, paraeducators, and secretary/clerical and we are united and ready to fight on!


In Solidarity,



May 17, 2017

PEA has joined with the Polk School District today to ask Governor Scott to veto HB 7069 and the 2017-18 State Budget.


Marianne Capoziello, PEA President, stated “It is disheartening that the Florida Legislature has abandoned its responsibility to ensure that our public school students have the resources they need to be successful learners. In fact, this year legislative leaders budgeted more for private education and corporate, for profit, charter expansion than they provide for an increase to K-12 Public education funding. When all is said and done, our schools will have less per student funding than we did during this school year. That means less for our classrooms and less for the programs our students need.”




She also spoke to the education train bill known as HB 7069 “The massive education bill contains parts of dozens of bills that were filed this session – many were never fully vetted through the committee process. But far worse than the lack of transparency in the process is how they have betrayed parents, teachers and students by cloaking a huge taxpayer funded hand-out to charter corporations with popular provisions, such as reduced testing and daily recess. We have never seen something this disingenuous come out of the legislature before. We call on the Governor to make this right. We stand to ask him to veto these bills and to do right by the students of Polk County and the state of Florida.”


Our teachers deserve more than bogus bonus schemes, our support staff deserve a budget that honors the work they do and not one that puts their vital jobs on the line. Then, most importantly, there is our students- they deserve a budget that funds their schools, one that honors the constitutional requirement of adequate funding for public schools and appropriate class sizes and one that does not divert their money into ill-conceived, poorly monitored, and unaccountable “for profit charters” or drive their teachers from the classroom. We stand here today School Board, Union, Teachers, Support Staff, and citizens and ask Governor Scott to do what is right and veto these pieces of legislation.  


Friday, May 12, 2017

Bargaining Update

The hearing with the Special Magistrate has concluded.  Now we have a waiting period for the parties to submit their briefs.  Once the briefs are submitted the Special Magistrate will issue a ruling.  When that ruling arrives the parties will have 20 days to file exceptions to the ruling. If exceptions are filed, the Polk County School Board will schedule a hearing to receive the positions of the parties and make a final recommendation for Tentative Agreements.  These Tentative Agreements then come to the bargaining unit members for ratification.

We will keep everyone apprised of the status over the summer by website and email.


Friday, March 10, 2017

The Polk Education Association (PEA), American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Polk County School Board’s (PCSB) bargaining team met for mediation today. Marianne Capoziello, President of PEA said “the results were supremely disappointing”. The meeting began at 10 am and seven hours later, due to the District’s lack of honest intent, the mediation failed. Health insurance was the topic of the day and it took an inordinate amount of time to discuss issues PEA had brought to the attention of the School Board’s Tallahassee Attorneys weeks ago. “Today was a ridiculous adventure in wasting time. We worked all day and believed we might actually come to agreement on insurance and at the eleventh hour the School Board’s team intentionally through a wrench in the machine,“ said Capoziello.


Capoziello went on to say “of grave concern to the PEA bargaining team was the School Board’s economic offers, that were delivered to the team on a piece of torn legal paper, and labeled ‘non-recurring’. What is being offered is a one-time bonus of $375.00 for teachers and $200.00 for Para educators and ESP’s (secretary/clericals).” Team member were astonished by the lack of respect this offer represents. “Teachers and Support Staff, who are working longer and longer hours with greater responsibility have essentially been offered a 2 cent tip” stated Carolyn Bryant a teacher at Eagle Lake Elem., and a member of the PEA team.


It appears that the whole purpose of today was so the School Board could check a box that they mediated. PEA continues to ask, “Where is the intent to solve the concerns of the teachers and support staff? It is like they believe that teachers and support staff are a dime a dozen, while PEA and Polk’s parents and concerned citizens worry about the ever growing teacher shortage” stated Capoziello. To PEA’s surprise the teams never even met in the same room as the District did not want to have an opening session together. It is still up in the air as to whether there will be an additional mediation session.


PEA bargaining team member, Branden Lane, summed it up best when he asked, “I wonder how much longer teachers and support staff will tolerate the School Board playing these games?”