An agreement between the Polk school district and the Polk Education Association gives teachers more planning time and removes some lesson plan templates.

Following is a news release about the agreement from Polk Public Schools. (Time constraints prevent us from doing our own report. The Ledger’s Kimberly C. Moore reported about it here and ABC Actions News’ Andrea Lyons previewed it here.)

Polk County Public Schools and the Polk Education Association have reached a tentative agreement on teacher contracts for the 2019-20 school year.

Under the terms of the agreement, various changes will be made to improve working conditions for teachers, especially providing more time for lesson planning.

“I’m thankful to everyone for coming together and focusing on what we can do to make working conditions better for our teachers,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “We heard our teachers loud and clear. They wanted more time in their classrooms to effectively prepare their lesson plans and more freedom in creating them. Ultimately, our students will achieve higher academic success if our teachers have the necessary time to strategically plan their instruction.”

Under the tentative agreement, teacher salaries remain frozen for the 2019-20 school year. A salary freeze is also in effect under contracts recently approved with all other bargaining groups representing paraeducators, clerical support personnel, bus drivers and attendants, school nutrition assistants, and custodial and maintenance employees.

Approximately $10 million that could have been used for employee salaries instead has been invested into the insurance plan to keep health care costs manageable. Employee dependent and spousal premium costs will not increase for PCPS’ self-funded health plan. The School Board covers the employee monthly premium so coverage is provided at no cost to the district’s approximately 18,000 active employees.

Given the district’s bleak financial situation, PEA President Stephanie Yocum said negotiators focused on how to give more planning time and freedom back to teachers to develop lessons for their students.

“I’m proud of the hard fought language the PEA bargaining team was able to secure for our teachers who work tirelessly every day for our students,” said Yocum. “This tentatively agreed to language returns significant amounts of time and autonomy back where it belongs, to our teachers.”

Teachers will vote on whether to ratify the tentative agreements. A date has not yet been scheduled.  If ratified, the contract must then go before the School Board for consideration and approval.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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