Raises Approved for Polk Public School Employees

school bus

Polk County Public School teachers, support staff and other union employees received a raise this month, which will show up in their Aug. 30 paycheck; non-union employees are set to receive raises on Sept. 30 that are retroactive to July 1.

The new contract with the Polk Education Association (PEA) union applies to teachers, paraeducators and clerical personnel with Polk County Public Schools. According to a news release issued by PCPS, increases include:

  • The new starting/minimum salary for PCPS teachers is $47,500, an increase of $2,013 from last year. Since 2020, all Florida school districts have received additional funding for teacher salaries, with the requirement that most of the funding be used to boost each district’s starting teacher pay to $47,500, or as close to that amount as possible.
  • Salaries for all other PCPS teachers will increase by at least 2.25%.
  • Degree supplements are now $3,162 for master’s degrees (a gain of $491), $4,517 for specialist degrees (up $809), and $6,776 for doctoral degrees (up $1,778).
  • All PCPS instructional employees represented by PEA will again receive $1,000 after taxes through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) supplements.
  • Paraeducators and clerical personnel will receive a salary increase of at least 3%.

Polk Education Association teachers’ union President Stephanie Yocum applauded district staff and PEA negotiators for the successful negotiation sessions throughout the last three years, allowing for an increase in base salaries for all teachers under the teacher collective bargaining agreement, ranging between $3,600 and $6,500. She pointed out that the Florida Education Association lobbied the Florida Legislature to move support staff salaries to a minimum of $15 per hour — ahead of the mandated scheduled increase.

“This new minimum starting pay is life changing for our support staff, and ultimately our students reap the benefits of quality support staff staying in their positions,” Yocum said.

But Yocum blames the state Legislature for not providing enough funding for experienced teachers.

While a handful of PCPS’ most experienced teachers — those at the top of the salary schedule — will earn $65,850 per year, an increase of $1,568 — many mid-level veteran teachers with more than a decade or more of experience, are earning the same as or just a little more than first-year teachers. That has caused animosity among the veteran teachers.

“The Polk Education Association is proud of the salary movement we were able to negotiate with our school district over the last couple bargains despite the 20+ restrictive laws from the state that govern how we pay teachers,” Yocum said. “There is still much work to be done to fix the salary compression that our veteran staff have experienced under the shortsightedness of our current governor and state Legislature. Both our district and our union have a great working relationship where we will tackle this issue head on in the next couple of bargains because our veteran staff deserve it.”

The new contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union covers PCPS bus drivers and attendants; custodial, maintenance and vehicle services employees; and school nutrition assistants. Their increases include:

  • The starting pay for PCPS drivers will increase to $16.25 per hour, up from $14.50 previously.
  • Drivers at other salary levels will see a pay increase of at least $1.75 per hour.
  • All AFSCME employees other than bus drivers will receive at least $15 per hour. Those who were already making $15 per hour or more will receive an hourly raise of at least $1.75.

Both agreements were previously ratified by members of each union. In addition to the highlights below, the minimum wage for all PCPS employees is now $15 per hour.

On Tuesday afternoon, the School Board heard about the plan to raise non-union employees’ salaries.

When approved, more than 100 food service managers will see their starting salary of $21,145 increased to $27,793. The raises will be taken from the Food Service Fund and not the General Fund, for a total cost of $774,834.

Seven registered nurse preventative technicians will see an upgrade in their pay, to be more in line with nurse pay on the teacher salary contract.  They currently are paid from $37,355 to $47,185.  The increases total $56,048 and provide a new range from $44,898 to $55,331.

“This is also needed to attract nurses who have lucrative offers from other organizations,” said Brian Warren, associate superintendent of PCPS human resources.  “These RNs teach health in classrooms and each oversee four to five schools in all aspects of school health.”

School‐based assistant principals and principals are also receiving a 1% to 2% raise and will move two step levels. The total cost is $518,299.

Non‐union professional technical staff and district administrators are set to get a 1% to 2% increase and a movement of one level, for a total of $1.9 million.

The Polk County School Board also voted Tuesday night on approving several administrative changes at several schools, including five Lakeland schools. Those changes are:

  • Gary Westberry, Jr., head of program at Lakeland Senior High, promoted to assistant principal of Kathleen Senior High School
  • Lacy Golden, assistant principal of Spessard Holland Elementary, promoted to principal after the retirement of Melody Butler.
  • Angela Price, assistant principal of Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, promoted to principal
  • Jennafer Rogers, assistant principal, of Valleyview Elementary, promoted to principal
  • Lucas Wilkins, assistant principal of Bethune Academy Magnet School, promoted to principal of Winston Academy of Engineering.

Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native.  She can be reached at [email protected]