Still no teacher contract as year nears end

After yearlong negotiations over teachers’ contracts, Brevard Public Schools is now in a mediation process to decide the terms of the document. County teachers have not had an official contract this entire school year and this process will only decide the terms for the 2018-2019 school year that is almost ended.

The district has offered a $770 raise for “highly effective” teachers and a $540 increase for “effective” teachers as determined by annual evaluations. The district also has offered a one-time $1,000 bonus for all teachers.

The union, on the other hand, has asked for $2,300 for highly effective teachers and $1,725 for effective teachers.

The Brevard Federation of Teachers and school district negotiating teams recently presented their cases to magistrate Tom Young, a circuit judge in Orange County, who will render a non-binding decision in June. The board is under no obligation to abide by the magistrate’s ruling.

School Board Chair Tina Descovich told “Florida Today” she’s not sure what will come of the hearing, but said she would be surprised if the magistrate directed the district to increase its offer for raises.

Math teacher Steve Thomas is the West Shore Building Representative for the Brevard Federation of Teachers and is involved with the dispute over the contract.

“I expect that we are going to find out real close to the end of the year what the judge recommends, and unfortunately I don’t expect the process to be a happy ending for all of the educators,”  Thomas said.

History teacher Amy Dimond is optimistic about the end result of the mediation process.

“I believe that the magistrate will find in favor of the teachers,” Dimond said. “I am hopeful that the investigation will reveal substantial evidence that Brevard’s School Board has the necessary funds in reserve.”

Thomas said the District isn’t in tune with the need for teacher raises.

“It has shown us that our district is not understanding the big picture and the big picture is that once they change the way teachers get raises here in the state of Florida that the Districts have bigger responsibilities to understand that change and then to change the way things are done because there cannot be business as usual,” Thomas said. “Our neighboring districts — Indian River, Orange, Sanford, Volusia and Seminole County all figured it out while our district has their head in the sand.”

According to Dimond, the dispute over the contract has affected teachers, students and parents.

“Sadly, I think the contract negotiations have had a negative impact on teachers currently employed in the county and those people interested in becoming a teacher,” Dimond said. “The resistance to negotiations on the side of the school board, by continually pushing back the magistrate hearing date and by not bringing a reasonable offer to the teachers union, simply expresses to teachers how much the school board does not value them as professionals.”

The process of working out the contract has led to many problems within the school district.

“This is bad for Brevard Public Schools because right now we have bus driver shortages, substitute teacher shortages and teacher shortages.” Thomas said. “These are the kind of things that contribute to people not wanting to be a part of such a bad environment.”

Dimond also agrees that the field of education will be affected due to the issues surrounding the teachers contract.

“I can’t speak for other teachers, but I personally foresee a drop in the retention of teachers and a drop in the number of people seeking a career in education,” Dimond said. “This will lead to fewer qualified candidates applying for vacant teaching positions and a reduction in the quality of instruction.”

The results of the mediation process will not be determined until the middle of June.

“If it is an unhappy ending, then the poor morale that has occured over the course of the last eight years is not going to get addressed, and it is going to compound even further,” Thomas said.

By Olivia Blackwell