Bay District School Teachers Continue Contract Negotiations

BAY COUNTY, Fla. - Bay District Schools and The Association of Bay County Educators (ABCE) agreed on new teacher contract language that allows principals to quickly hire new teachers.

Negotiators for both groups are working this school year to update the entire teacher contract, a process they complete every three years.

The new language allows principals to fill teaching positions prior to the closing date if the vacancy occurs within one week of the beginning of school, during the school year, or in a "Critical Shortage Area" like math and science.

In the past, the positions had to be posted for at least five days before a principal could make a hire.

"If somebody moves into town that is highly qualified and certified and they're looking for a job, many times they're going to get snapped up by another school system before we even have a chance to interview them," said Sharon Michalik, the district's spokesperson.

Teachers said they prefer the fair hiring process but agreed to the change as it will benefit students.

"Reaching any kind of agreement on these matters is for the students, and that's what both parties are about," said Cindy Fowler, ABCE's Spokesperson.

The groups, however, are still debating on how teachers should be compensated.

District officials are proposing teachers cover a 7.5% increase in insurance premiums because the district has absorbed all increases for the last 15 years.

"Most people have paid an annual increase in their insurance so our employees have been very lucky. We're glad we've been able to do that for them since 2002, but unfortunately we just can't continue that," Michalik said.

The district also proposed an initial salary increase of $1.5 Million to be split among "Highly Effective" and "Effective" rated teachers.

Teachers said they'll need more money on the table before they agree. They are expected to present a counter-offer on salaries when they resume negotiations on October 12th.

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