Bargaining Notes 2011-2012


bargaining notes 2011-2012

April 9, 2012

The ballots for the final 2011-2012 ratification were counted at PEA this evening.  The results are as follows:

Teachers, 1935 ballots cast, 96.6% voting YES to ratify.

Paraeducators,732 ballots cast, 98.5% voting YES to ratify.

ESP/Secretaries, 367 ballots cast, 98.1% voting YES to ratify.

The results are on the agenda for the April 10th school board meeting for ratification by the school board.


March 19, 2012

TENTATIVE AGREEMENTS 11-12 posted for all employee groups


February 19, 2012

Tentative Agreements made on Teacher Evaluation, displacement & transfer, and term of contract for all employee groups.


January 30, 2012

Ballots were counted Monday, January 30, 2012, 5:00 pm at the PEA Office and all three employee groups overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying the tentative agreements for 2011-2012. 

  • 2879 Teacher ballots were counted with 97.2% voting to ratify

  • 887 Paraeducator ballots were counted with 99.2% voting to ratify

  • 454 Secretary (ESP) ballots were counted with 99.1% voting to ratify


December 14, 2011


It gives me great pleasure to announce that PEA successfully reached tentative agreement with the District on salaries last night. We alerted you to the fact that the District had offered a $500.00 one-time bonus and that PEA had rejected that offer believing that the District could do better. PEA has long advocated for salaries to be up front in the budgeting process as it is one of the key components to gaining and retaining a quality staff. PEA took its belief forward and positive conversations about how we could find a way to do better began with the Superintendent and with School Board Members. Once we knew an agreement was on the horizon, PEA, Dr. Nickell, and the School Board worked to have this portion of the contract done before the holiday break so you could go into the holidays knowing that you will have more money in the New Year! The agreement reached at 8 pm last night is as follows:

  • Teachers, Paras, and ESP will have Step movement this year and the pay will be retroactive to the start of the school year for those that begin in August and July 1st for twelve month employees. $500.00 dollars will be added to the top Step in all three contracts.
  • Training pay for teachers will move from $8.50 to $18.09 when pay is offered for training held outside of the duty day.
  • The National Board Supplement language remains and is unchanged.
  • Paraeducator and ESP Longevity Pay will be unfrozen.
  • 10 Month Secretary Salaries have been established at the same hourly rate as for 11 month positions.  

We know we have a long way to go but, what we are seeing evolve is a commitment to transparency that Dr. Nickell is actually putting into action. There have been more open books, open doors and open dialog than I have seen in many years. The change in training pay is an example of this renewed commitment as the district made the proposal to increase training pay, which has long been a goal of PEA. Thanks to Dr. Nickell and supportive Board Members, there is a commitment to work with PEA and bring salaries up front in the budgeting process. Dr. Nickell has empaneled a Joint Committee on Fiscal Responsibility that meets regularly to look at these issues. Again, we are at the beginning of a long road but, we have a commitment to finding a common route to follow. 


PEA’s has shown that tenacity and hard work pays off! For the second time this year we have been able to work to bring you a settlement that improves your financial future. Your PEA bargaining team wishes to thank you for your support. Your patience and the trust you have given us has helped us reach goals that, for a while, seemed impossible. We are working to bring this out to you for ratification as quickly as possible in the New Year. We all hope this makes your holidays a little brighter! Have a wonderful holiday! We will be in touch with ratification details when you return.  


November 30, 2011

There was a brief bargaining session to discuss the Value Added Model for teacher evaluation.  The bargaining team is still waiting on DOE to put their issues is writing so the bargaining team may address them.


November 11, 2011

Ratification Ballots Tallied

The Polk Education Association is pleased to announce that teachers, paraeducators, and secretaries have all ratified their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for this past 2010-2011 school year. Ballots were counted today at the PEA Office and all three employee groups overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying the tentative agreements their bargaining team placed before them. The counting of ballots was overseen by PEA’s Election Committee. Melinda Riddle, Election Committee Chair announced that 2014 Teacher ballots were counted with 87% voting to ratify; 624 Paraeducator ballots were counted with 95% voting to ratify, and 331 Secretary (ESP) ballots were counted with 88% voting to ratify. These results have been posted on PEA’s website and provided to the Superintendent and School Board. The School Board is expected to vote on the agreement at next Tuesday’s School Board Meeting.


Negotiations for these contracts began in May of 2010 and at times included bitter debate. At the core of the dispute was the District’s untenable change to the employee’s health insurance plan and the rejection of salary steps for employees. Negotiations included an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) filed by PEA over the District’s unilateral changes to the employee’s health insurance plan and an Impasse in bargaining. On August 3, 2011 PEA and the District made presentations to conclude Impasse regarding both health insurance and step increases. At PEA’s urging, the School Board sent their team back to the bargaining table to try and resolve the health insurance. This unusual move became the catalyst for renewed discussion and tentative agreement was reached on the employees’ health insurance plan.


Marianne Capoziello, PEA President stated, “It is heartening that so many employees have expressed through e-mail, phone calls, and in person their gratitude for this resolution to the ongoing health insurance debate. It is clear that this is bringing relief to employees of all job categories. It is now time for the School Board to step up and address the income loss our employees have suffered over the last few years.” It should be noted that this settlement is for last year and negotiations are continuing for the current 2011-2012 school year.


November 2, 2011

Bargaining continues for the 11-12 contract year. PEA rejects the District offer of a $500 bonus for 2011-2012. Meetings are set in November for the district staff and school board to examine the current budget further for additional funds. PEA believes there are funds available in the current budget to pay for the asked for step for all employees.


Language discussed and tentatively agreed to for the ESE Extended School Year program for teachers and paraeducators giving hiring preference to employees that work with the students during the regular school year.


Information requested on the number of employees with advanced degrees for teachers and those receiving longevity for paras and secretaries. 


Discussion on changes in statute and how it affects the contract language for annual contract, probationary period, and reduction in force.  More discussion at the next bargainign session.


October 24, 2011

Tentative Agreements are posted in each school.  Please check with your building rep as to where yours are located.


You also received an email with the tentative agreements for your bargaining unit.


All tentative agreements are to be available October 24 - November 11


Ballots will arrive in the courier at your workplace on November 3.  If you do not have your ballot by November 4, please call PEA for assistance.


Ballots MUST be in the courier run by the end of business Thursday, November 10th to ensure their arrival at the PEA office.


Ballots will be counted on Friday, November 11 at 5 pm.  Ballots may be hand delivered up to 5 pm on that date.


September 28, 2011

The bargaining teams met on Thursday, September 28th, 2011 to discuss the teacher evaluation system as well as the PEA salary proposals from the previous meeting.


The teacher evaluation system manual needed some adjustments as well as some new contract language to address new concerns. Article 15.16 was drafted jointly and tentatively agreed to at the table. 15.16 describes how the points earned in the walk throughs, informal and formal evaluations will be tallied for a summative rating in each EPC. This is a growth model that should you improve over time your rating will also improve. It also defined the formula for assigning points in the evaluation system for student achievement using the DOE Value Added Model (VAM) information.


The district did not bring a written proposal for salaries, but a verbal proposal of a sum of money to be divided among all the employees as a one-time bonus. The concept was discussed and rejected by the PEA team for several reasons: A bonus is taxed at a higher initial rate (27%) therefore reducing the amount paid to the employee, a bonus is not figured as part of your salary for retirement, and a step on the salary schedule is something that stays with you as you move forward – a bonus does not affect your future pay. The PEA team reiterated its proposal that all employees should move a step on the salary schedule and that this modest proposal is affordable within the current budget.   


September 15, 2011

PEA and District Bargaining Teams met on Thursday, September 15, 2011, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm.


The first item for discussion was on student learning gains and the DOE(department of education) VAM (value added model)data. It was decided that more information is needed and the assessment and accountability is running scenarios with the data and will then meet with the Evaluation Student Assessment sub-committee. The Student Assessment sub-committee will then report to the bargaining team at the next bargaining team meeting.


The second item at the table was the district’s response to the PEA salary proposal from the last meeting. The district has asked for more time to determine the cost of giving employees steps and they plan to have that information at the next bargaining table.


The next bargaining meeting will be on September 28th, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the PEA office. Topics for discussion will be the PEA salary proposal, student learning gains, as well as some other pending articles.  



August 30, 2011

please read the details of the health insurance settlement and tentative agreement

Read the Settlement & Tentative Agreement


August 3, 2011 is the day our health insurance crisis began to turn around. The District’s bargaining team was ready to have the School Board impose a devastating health plan. The plan presented to the School Board established a $50 per month premium for every employee, raised deductibles to $1500 and co-insurance to 75%/25%, once you met your deductible. The Maximum out-of-pocket would have risen to $6000. The District recommended an increase in premiums for spouse to $550 per month and raising child premiums to $150 per month for each of the first three children. These increases would have made health care unaffordable for most employees.


On August 3rd PEA made a presentation to the School Board and Superintendent during our Legislative hearing (the final step of impasse) that graphically showed the devastation that the District’s proposal would have caused employees. We knew we had two contentious issues, wages and health care, and we asked that these two issues be separated and voted on individually. PEA spoke to the depth of harm the proposals would cause and asked the School Board to send us back to the bargaining table to seek a better resolution. Debra Wright and Tim Harris moved to consider the items individually and the School Board agreed. After discussion the Board voted unanimously to send us back to the table on health insurance. Dr. Nickell became directly involved in the process and several very candid discussions were held and positive progress was made. In addition, on August 17th, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in support of our Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) to further spur discussion and the need for resolution. Your PEA team knew what was important for a settlement and with that in mind your team went back to the table on your behalf. On August 24th, we returned to bargaining with a mediator and were able to reach a resolution in principal on the ULP and the health insurance that we believe is clearly a victory for all employees. That agreement has since been reduced to writing and is now a tentative agreement to your contract. Read the Settlement & Tentative Agreements


Maintaining the access for all employees to quality health care has been PEA’s focus and fight for the last two years. Today we believe we have achieved that goal. Again, we want to recognize the positive involvement of Dr. Nickell in making this plan available and the School Board Members who voted to send us back to the table and gave us time to work toward this better solution. A special thanks to Debra Wright and Tim Harris for the motion to separate the issues. We believe this settlement is a testament to the fortitude of your PEA bargaining team members who never gave up hope and have given so much time and effort to resolve this issue. This clearly shows the strength and tenacity of your union!


On another positive note, PEA’s impasse presentation to Dr. Nickell and the Board regarding the District’s budget has also opened new doors. Dr. Nickell has held some frank conversations with President Capoziello regarding this and other issues. The initial discussions have gone very well and there is optimism that we can find a way to move forward on this issue as well.


We encourage you to support this health insurance plan once we submit the final documents to you for ratification. We are hoping to finish a few additional issues, including the teacher evaluation language over the next few days. We expect ratification to begin early in September.


June 30, 2011

BARGAINING IMPASSE UPDATE Magistrate Outcome – PEA has rejected the Magistrate’s Recommendations for resolving Impasse and is requesting a Legislative Hearing before the School Board at a date to be determined. Once the date has been determined PEA will notify you by e-mail, posting on the website and robocall to your home phone. The issues at impasse remain health insurance, salary step increases, longevity pay for secretaries and paraeducators, and splitting of classes. The overriding problem remains the economy as well as the Legislature’s continuing assault on school funding. The Magistrate found the proposed Legislative cuts “troubling” and recommended the District’s salary freeze be implemented, including the freeze on additional longevity supplements for paraeducators and secretaries. However, he did recognize, just like the previous Magistrate, that your salaries are not comparable and that salary “needs to be a priority in the future.” The Magistrate’s justification for not addressing salary this year was the recognition that we needed a “resolution regarding health benefits,” and he did recommend the District fund additional money above their proposal to fix this problem. The Magistrate also recommended that the National Board Supplement be retained as is and that teachers who are required to accept students when a class is split have the cost for a substitute be split among them. The Magistrate recognized the complexity of the Health Insurance issues and made some recommendations. The most noteworthy was that the District increase its contribution per employee significantly from $440 per month to $523 per month. The Magistrate also recognized that we should have a stronger role in the Insurance Committee and recommended some changes to the process. The Magistrate recommended increased collaboration and pushed both sides to return to the bargaining table to resolve this issue due to its complexity.

HEALTH INSURANCE Mediation – The Magistrate’s hearing led to mediation between the District and PEA specifically on health insurance. Your bargaining team met in full day mediation sessions on May 19th, June 7th, and June 20th. No resolution was found. The mediation included discussion on benefits, District run health clinics, family rates, premiums, and affordability. Talks ultimately collapsed when PEA said employees could not accept large increases to health care costs and the furloughs recently proposed by Mark Grey to balance the District’s budget for 2011-2012. Even the Magistrate, who understands these economic times, recommended the Board increase its contribution to our health insurance.

UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE-HEALTH INSURANCE On May 3rd oral arguments were presented to the 2nd District Court of Appeal regarding our Health Insurance ULP and we are still waiting for a decision. Our attorney indicates there is nothing we can do except to wait. The District’s $11 million insurance liability continues to grow and hangs over the head of the District in regard to the outcome of this decision. There is no guaranteed outcome from the court, however, our attorney remains confident that we will have a positive decision and continues to expect the decision to be issued at any time. Should our current position prevail as expected, the District will be obligated to refund all premiums and recalculate all health insurance benefits as under the 704 Plan from October 1, 2009.



PEA has received the Special Magistrate’s Report from our hearing which was held on March 29th and completed on April 11th. Five issues were presented including, Health Insurance, Salaries, Splitting Classes, National Board Supplement, and Longevity Supplements. PEA objected to the District’s plan to bring the furlough and salary cut language to the impasse table as it was not a mandatory subject of bargaining. The District withdrew their language on this issue before the hearing began and therefore avoided another Unfair Labor Practice charge.


The Magistrate’s justification for not addressing salary this year was the recognition that we needed a “resolution regarding health benefits,” and he did recommend the District fund additional money above their proposal to fix this problem. The Magistrate recognized the complexity of the Health Insurance issues and made some recommendations for change. The most noteworthy was the recommendation the District increase its contribution per employee significantly from $440 per month to $523 per month. The Magistrate also recognized that we should have a stronger role on the Insurance Committee and recommended some changes to the process. The Magistrate recommended increased collaboration and pushed both sides to return to the bargaining table to resolve this issue due to its complexity.  


Further complicating this issue is the ULP on Health Insurance. The District has appealed the PERC decision to the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland and the hearing was held on May 3rd. PEA is confident that the PERC ruling will be upheld and we are waiting on the final court decision.


This combination of events has likely motivated a potentially significant step as PEA and the District have entered into mediation on all insurance related issues. The first session was held on May 19th and a second session is scheduled for June 7th. While there have been no agreements reached, there has been some movement in a more positive direction. We will update you on mediation after June 7th.


The next step in the Impasse process is to meet with the District and discuss the Magistrate’s recommendations to determine whether a settlement is possible. If a settlement is not reached, the next step is a hearing before the School Board where the School Board will determine the tentative agreements that are then put to the employees for a ratification vote. The hearing before the school board, should it be necessary is likely to happen in June. All your voices will need to be united together to make a difference!  



Bargaining for the 2011-2012 school year has begun despite the fact that we have not yet concluded the 2010-11 year’s bargain. This is not typical but, can occur when it is necessary to begin bargaining for issues that are not part of the current impasse process. PEA will post a complete list of summer bargaining dates on our website as soon as they have been set. Issues for the 2011-12 table include but, are not limited to, the new state mandated teacher evaluation system, wages, benefits, paperwork reduction, and working conditions.  


February/March Budget Presentation Power Point


February 24, 2011 - Bargaining Continues

Since the last communication of January 6, 2011 when we filed for impasse we have received a date from the special magistrate. The impasse hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. We then held several budget briefings to share PEA’s opinions on the district’s budget presentation that you heard in your schools at the end of January. This has led to several frank and open discussions with Dr. Sherrie Nickell, Superintendent and Denny Dunn, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Human Resource Services.


In these discussions I expressed concerns about health insurance, salaries, and unfair labor practices. I reiterated my concerns about how the health insurance conversations derailed to the point where even opening employee clinics, which have proven to be successful in several school districts throughout Florida, was pulled from the bargaining table by the district. We also discussed the impending impasse hearing and what led to the breakdown in communication at the table.


 These open dialogues have brought us to the agreement that we do have further issues that we can discuss and could potentially come to some resolution. The PEA Bargaining team and the District have agreed to return to the table to see if they can find reasonable solutions to the five (5) items still as impasse. Your bargaining team does not want to imply that these discussions will be easy or successful only that we are willing to explore all the possibilities.


Again, we are willing to keep an open mind and see if reasonable solutions can be found. We are looking for potential dates to meet prior to March 29th. Please know that we are still keeping the March 29th hearing date to retain our right to proceed to impasse if the bargaining teams are unable to resolve any of the issues. Florida State Statutes allow us to bargain right up until the point of the magistrate’s decision is rendered. PEA will keep you posted as to the dates for bargaining and the outcome of the meetings.  


January 6, 2011 - Impasse Declared

Today, the Polk Education Association (PEA) notified the Polk County School District (District) and the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) that impasse has been reached in bargaining for teachers, paraeducators, and the support staff represented by PEA. PEA has requested the assignment of a Special Magistrate pursuant to Florida Statutes, Section 447.403(2). The major remaining issues are monetary with health insurance, traditional salary step increases, and the District’s desire to have the unilateral power to reduce employee wages without any bargaining.


“The Superintendent’s Bargaining Team has not shown an interest in developing joint solutions to our current financial concern,” states Marianne Capoziello. “PEA is keenly aware of the economy in Polk County and is very sympathetic to the economic challenges that many of our residents face; increased costs of gas, food, housing and insurance to name a few. School employees face those very same challenges. Many have spouses who are also out of work or are assisting grown children and other family members.”


PEA has requested only a minimal step increase for all employees. The District is demanding to not only avoid this obligation, but to compound it with language giving the superintendent the unilateral authority to reduce employee salaries without any bargaining process. The district proposal, if adopted, would allow the reduction of employee wages by more than 12% without notice or bargaining with PEA. A 12% reduction would devastate anyone’s household budget. When asked why the district needs this language it was stated that if there was a financial emergency this would allow the district to make changes without a lengthy bargaining process. It should be noted that State Statute 447.4095 – Financial Urgency already protects the District should there be a true financial emergency. The statute allows for a maximum of 14 days for bargaining and then the District could move to declare impasse. 


Employee health insurance has been an issue ever since the Board committed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) nearly two years ago by unilaterally imposing a radical change in the plan without following any bargaining process. This imposed change has resulted in skyrocketing costs for the district health plan. The Superintendent’s Bargaining Team continues to let this financial burden build for the District by not addressing the financial issues at the bargaining table.


In bargaining this year, the District has proposed another radical change that would significantly increase the cost of health care for all employees. The Superintendent’s Bargaining Team states that the increased costs to the employees is necessary to cover the current losses as caused by the previously imposed plan. The Polk Education Association proposed a potential health plan simply to get figures and have a place to start discussing health plan changes. The Superintendent’s Bargaining Team did not provide the cost of the PEA proposal for five months. While the District has been at the bargaining table, they have refused to offer any reasonable solutions or fully disclose their financial data.  


“I am hopeful that the bargaining impasse process will provide the Board with accurate financial information. Good decisions require sound data. I question some of the facts that have been provided to the board for their vote,” says Marianne Capoziello. “The impasse process is designed to place all the facts before the special magistrate. His unbiased assessment of those facts is necessary to crafting any resolutions to the current negotiations. I believe that if everyone comes to the table and is willing to look at all the data and consider potential options that we can come to a reasonable solution.”


There is not another bargaining session scheduled at this time.