School district and teacher’s union take steps toward settling pay raise impasse

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Romi White

Last week attorneys for Santa Rosa County District Schools and Santa Rosa Professional Educators, the district teachers’ union, selected a special magistrate to help craft an agreement which could settle 2016-2017 contract negotiations ahead of a new deadline for retroactive teacher pay increases.

Although Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick initially declared a March 15 deadline to reach an agreement so payroll processing including retroactive pay increases could be processed during the current fiscal year which ends June 30, the district is now eyeing an April cutoff.

Wyrosdick had last month declared an impasse in contract negotiations after SRPE’s bargaining unit twice rejected the district’s $2.4-million offer of a 1.8-percent pay increase for teachers. 

SRPE is seeking a retroactive 2.77-percent salary increase for this fiscal year, which started July 1, 2016. That would total roughly $3.2 million, including benefits. 

In addition to selecting Robert Hoffman, a special magistrate based in Fort Meyers, to help arbitrate the impasse, SRPE March 17 sent a request to the Public Employees Relations Commission also seeking to pursue a federal mediation process, which would run concurrent with the impasse process.

“Both sides have agreed for federal mediation to occur April 3rd,” SRPE President Rhonda Chavers said, adding, “The impasse process will conclude with school board action on the special magistrate’s recommendation to either accept or reject his recommendation. If a (federal) mediator’s crafted agreement is acceptable to both sides, it conceptually could end the impasse process.”

According to Chavers, the school board has final decision-making authority in both the impasse and federal mediation processes.

“Ideally a federal mediator would craft an agreement between the two parties and then school board action would be needed to finalize the mediated agreement,” she said.