PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – In April negotiations began on salary increases for experienced teachers. The two sides have not yet reached a deal but both Bay District officials and the teacher’s union agree Veteran teachers deserve more.

“We can do better for our Veteran teachers than we have in the past couple of years,” Co-Chair for The Association of Bay County Educators Alexis Underwood said.

Underwood said some local teachers who have stayed have been patient with the district.

“It began with the hurricane, and we’ve done our best to provide a quality education for every kid in Bay County and we’ve set aside our personal needs to support our younger counterparts and our students,” Underwood said.

A spokesperson for the District’s Bargaining team, Sharon Michalik said the District recognizes the funds directed to beginning teacher salaries do not help the veteran educators who have done so much for our community.

She adds they are “committed to doing all we can for our veteran teachers.”

Underwood said they anticipate very teachers reaching the mandated $47,500 minimum very soon and hope once that is met the focus shifts toward experienced teachers.

“We’d like to see a significant raise that comes close to matching what our younger counterparts or less experienced counterparts have gotten courtesy of the state for the last couple of years,” Underwood said. She also said with this shortage of teachers Nationwide, finding and keeping teachers has become a competitive market.

“If we want to have the very best teachers, the ones that our kids deserve; they deserve the very best we can find. Then we have to build compensation and work packages that attract the very best,” Underwood said.

Michalik says once every teacher reaches the minimum salary of $47,500 the District and Union will have the flexibility in the disbursement of funds for experienced teacher salary increases.

Underwood said, “We’re counting on the district to keep, to honor what they’ve said publicly.”

Bay District Officials said they are hopeful they can reach the governor’s mandated minimum salary of $47,500 dollars.

Here is the statement from Bay District Schools:

We value our partnership with ABCE and we are so grateful for their commitment to our students and employees. Like ABCE, we are also grateful for all the funds the Governor has directed to beginning teacher salaries. We understand the great gains at the lower end of the salary schedule does not help the veteran educators who have done so much for our community.

While we can’t go into details about ongoing negotiations, we are hopeful that we can reach the Governor’s mandated minimum salary of $47,500. Once we reach that minimum, the District and Union will have the same flexibility we used to have regarding the disbursement of funds for salary increases and we are both committed to doing all we can for our veteran educators.