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Updated: 10/28/2013 01:54:23PM

Teachers and assistants to receive raises

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Polk County’s teachers, classroom assistants and secretaries all will get a raise thanks to an agreement reached this week between the union that represents them and the Polk County School Board.

At Tuesday’s evening School Board meeting, the agreement was presented to the school board and immediately OK’d, but not yet formally adopted. Also yet to approve the agreement that gives teachers at least a $1,000 annual raise are the members of the Polk Education Association which represents all 6,500 teachers and hundreds of support personnel. The union members will have a week to endorse the pact, said union president Marianne Capoziello.

“But all we’ve heard from the members is good. It’s a good agreement and we’re confident it’ll be approved,” she said.

She explained that the agreement is not based on a percentage increase, but rather on making salaries more competitive with surrounding counties.

“We lose teachers every year to other counties because they can earn more,” the union president said. “This may help us keep some of our finest.”

The agreement lays out that beginning teachers will see their base pay hiked from $35,700 a year to $36,750, and all other teachers will see their pay upped by $2,000 a year. Capoziello also said that para educators and clerical staff will receive a one-step raise, with the more experienced receiving a $500 raise. The agreement impacts about 10,000 school district workers in the three classifications.

“We believe we are on the right path to attracting and retaining the best teachers in our classrooms,” said School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy. “We also know the value our para educators and clerical staff add to the quality in our classrooms. This is a fair and equitable settlement and an important step towards focusing our District’s budget to accurately reflect the priority of the school board’s goals.”

Capoziello also said the union talks were open and reflected a sustainable proposal.

“This bodes well for future negotiations,” she added.

In addition to the salary increases, according to the union, the agreement made no changes in health care coverage and included a pilot wellness project to combat obesity which could include bariatric surgery.

The teacher raises were funded from a state allocation of some $408 million which Gov. Rick Scott said should also include principals, assistant principals and school support staff. That left the Polk cOUNTYSchool District with about $12 million to divvy up to those represented by the union.

The raises will be retroactive to the beginning of the school year in August, and in some cases, to July 1 for those who teach or work year round. They should see the raises reflected in their October paycheck which is issued at the end of the month.

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