Volusia Teacher’s Organization is demanding respect from the district.
Volusia Teacher’s Association President Andrew Spar regularly receives text messages from the teachers of his two daughters asking for common school supplies like paper to be donated.
“They don’t have enough to get through the rest of the year,” he said.
Conditions like a lack of tools and classroom cleanliness are part of the driving force behind county teachers participating in a work to contract stance. Meaning, they are only working for the contracted hours they are paid for.
According to Spar, the stance is a little bit about everything. From working conditions to pay to genuine respect, teachers are asking the school board for real, lasting change.
“we need change in the district,” Spar said. “We have a school board that says they want to make change, but now we’re getting ‘Give us time,’ and ‘We’ll see.’ We need change now. We don’t need another school year to go by.”
But that’s where it looks like things are headed. The Volusia County School Board sent a declaration of impasse to the Volusia Teacher’s Organization after they failed to reach an agreement in negotiation.
“The unresolved issues include negotiations for wages and benefits to be paid to teachers for fiscal year 2014-2015.”
Laura Hoskin, first-grade and kindergarden teacher at Pine Trail Elementary said she would like to see wages for teachers more competitive with surrounding counties.
“I’d like for teachers to be paid for years of experience that they have,” she said. “Teachers deserve respect for all the time and effort we put in. We need time to do all the paperwork and mandates required by the district and state.”
Spar said the impasse itself was a sign of disrespect for teachers because it came in at 7 p.m. March 25, smack dab in the middle of spring break.
“Anyone who does negotiations knows they are built on relationships and acting professional,” he said. “It shows how little respect they have for us. We surveyed our members in January and asked them how valued they felt. Ninety-eight percent said they do not feel valued. Then we asked if what we’re doing right now is good for kids and 99% of teachers said no.”
The next step, according to Spar, is for the VTO to select a magistrate from a list of seven names to hear both sides of the issue and make a ruling. A decision of the magistrate must be made by April 15, but Spar said that the magistrate’s ruling isn’t binding, so the issue could still drag on.
“This process will take two to three months at a minimum,” he said. “That’s too long. We want something to happen now. So that’s why we’re doing the work to contract, to raise awareness for what’s going on in our schools. There isn’t a teacher out there that wants to do this. They don’t like saying no, but we’re more concerned about long term well being than what’s happening now.”
In a statement to My Fox Orlando, Volusia County School district said the following:
“The school district trusts our teachers will continue to do their best, as they always have for the students of Volusia County. We are looking forward to a successful completion of good faith negotiations with the VTO."