District, teacher rift now up to magistrate

ataylor@bradenton.comMarch 26, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Officials with Manatee County Schools have tried to negotiate something no other school district in the state has changed -- reducing pay for unused sick time when employees retire, or “terminal pay.”

School administrators hope to change the dollar amount due retiring employees for sick time from 100 percent to 50 percent.

Now the request is in the hands of special magistrate Marsha Murphy.

Friday marked the second day Murphy listened to school administrators and representatives from the Manatee Education Association.

The two-day hearing wasn’t akin to the give-and-take testimony of a trial. Instead, each side presented its case. Murphy asked questions for each side throughout the hearing. Also, opposing sides asked each other questions in an effort to clarify their stances.

The district was repre- sented by attorney Scott Martin, Superintendent Tim McGonegal, assistant superintendents Darcy Hopko and Jim Drake, along with Forrest Branscomb, the district’s director of risk management.

MEA representatives were president Patricia Barber and business agent Bruce Proud. It was Proud who told Murphy that the district’s efforts were unprecedented in requesting a terminal pay reduction.

“We believe (terminal pay) is consistent in the state of Florida,” Proud said when he presented his case. “It’s consistent with every district. It’s not an additional cost. It has been budgeted.”

Presenting terminal pay is another cost-saving example to help the district, school administrators said. The economy doesn’t look as if it’s going to rebound any time soon, McGonegal told Murphy.

“We will have decreased revenues for the last five years,” he added. “We’ve got to prepare ourselves.

Martin said, “We’re in a very tough time right no. This is a situation we don’t want to be in any more than the MEA.”

“I think both sides had an opportunity to fairly present their perspectives,” Proud said after the hearing. “It’s in the hands of the magistrate.”

The two sides are charged with completing a brief for Murphy by April 8. Fifteen days after that date, Murphy is expected to complete a recommendation.

Murphy left both sides with some positive words.

“I will turn something around as quickly as I can,” she said. “I’ve been in the labor relations business for 35 years. I feel sorry for the dilemma all of you are in. I’m not one of these folks who likes to see teachers get demonized.”

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