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Pasco school union says superintendent ignoring contract

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LAND O’ LAKES — The relationship between Superintendent Kurt Browning and the teachers’ union is getting testy, with the union president telling the Pasco County School Board on Tuesday that legal steps could be in the works to make sure the recently negotiated contract is enforced and teachers get the planning and teaching time they need.

“I did not want the board to have the impression that everything is hunky-dory, because it is not,” Lynne Webb, president of United School Employees of Pasco, said.

Webb said one issue is that the “professional learning community” effort the district put into effect this year is creating “an overwhelming amount of stress” for teachers.

Professional learning communities place a greater emphasis on collaboration among teachers to make sure students are progressing, but Webb said in many cases teachers find themselves in numerous lengthy meetings that leave them no time to prepare their daily lessons.

She also said an online self-assessment teachers are doing is requiring them to address 41 elements of instructional practice, when the contract says they are to choose one element to address.

“This does not show me there is much trust or the district really values what we agreed to in the negotiation process,” Webb said.

Browning, who was endorsed by the union when he was elected a year ago, took umbrage when Webb implied what is happening amounts to abuse of the teachers.

“I resent the fact you stand at that dais and tell the public and this board that I am abusing teachers,” Browning said. “It is totally inappropriate.”

Browning said the board should know him well enough to know he would not “willfully ignore the contract,” but his administration and the union will have differences when interpreting the contract language.

Kevin Shibley, the district’s executive director for administration, said the district had shared information with the union about the self-assessment before instructions were sent to employees. He also said the “vast majority of our schools” are following the contract when it comes to professional learning communities, but there may be instances where something needs to be addressed.

Webb, though, told Browning that the district is concentrating so much on the future that teachers don’t have time to focus on the present and “start to feel like indentured servants.”

“You may be a new superintendent, you may have new leadership, but you cannot re-interpret 30 years of contract negotiations,” Webb said.

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