BARTOW – Representing Polk County’s public school teachers, staff for the Polk Education Association teacher’s union and representatives for Polk County Public Schools met Feb. 5 for another round of teacher work contract negotiations.
Salary was not a major focus of negotiation during the talks, as discussion focused mostly on distribution of bonuses, planning time available to teachers and how teachers are allowed to deal with unruly students.
Some progress between the parties appears to have been achieved.
For example, there is the state’s “Best and Brightest” program, which gives bonuses to teachers classified as “highly-effective,” but a lower bonus to teachers rated as “effective.” The Polk School Board has already voted to pay teachers getting either rating the same bonus and to share some of this bonus money with school support staff. On Feb. 5, the two sides appeared to agree on splitting the bonus — with 80 percent going to teachers rated as effective or better and the other 20 percent going toward support staff.
Representatives for the school district appeared receptive to the idea of giving teachers more professional autonomy to lesson plan as they chose, further agreeing that principals should not be able to dictate which format teachers use to lesson plan so long as teachers are doing so effectively. Also discussed at the meeting were means to deal with disruptive students.
Some of the items on the agenda were not immediately resolved.
Once the two sides agree on an updated contract, PEA-member teachers and the school board will have separate votes to try and ratify the updated contract.