Teachers took over the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations meeting Monday night, peppering guest speaker Superintendent Alberto Carvalho with questions about their salaries, class size and performance pay.
The teachers were galvanized mainly by concerns about their labor contract, which was approved earlier this month. More than a dozen teachers showed up.
“We can talk about whatever issues you want to talk about, since some of you turned this into, ‘Let’s ask Alberto,’” Carvalho said. “You should know you can ask me anything. I’ll answer.”
Almost 40 percent of teachers voted against the contract negotiated by United Teachers of Dade. The agreement eliminates pay “steps” -- a set raise every year, depending on years of service. Instead, the contract marks a move towards performance pay, which union leaders and school district officials say is mandated by the state.
Retired teacher Esther Garvett said the changes deprive some long-time teachers of substantial raises that were promised under the previous contract.
“It’s just not fair,” she said. “They’ve been waiting and waiting.”
Carvalho said the new system spreads out raises in a more equitable way. Previously, he said, new teachers got meager raises -- sometimes $150. He also hinted that future negotiations could lead to more money for veteran teachers.
John A. Ferguson Senior High teacher Sarah Hays pressed for answers about when performance pay would finally kick in. The biology teacher said her students perform well, so she was looking forward to a boost in pay.
“My scores are great,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this accountability.”
But with merit pay attached to student test scores -- and the state constantly changing testing requirements -- Carvalho said there is no fair way to implement a performance pay system right now.
The superintendent took questions for about an hour during the mostly cordial but sometimes testy meeting. He tried to end on a unifying note.
“There is nothing this workforce cannot accomplish and I am exceedingly proud of every one of you, even when you don’t agree, necessarily,” Carvalho said.