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Miami-Dade teachers continue to press labor contract concerns

@cveiga

Miami-Dade County teachers are not letting up with their complaints about a new labor contract passed in September.

On Wednesday, about 20 teachers showed up to the normally staid school board meeting to lodge their complaints with the district, United Teachers of Dade and state leaders.

The complaints centered around the contract but also touched on class size, teacher evaluations, lack of resources and an unpopular state bonus program.

“We are on the front lines,” said teacher Dominique Butler. “Why don’t you ask us what we need?”

Teachers spoke for more than an hour. School board members had to vote to extend the public comment portion of their meeting since policy calls for only 90 minutes of discussion.

Almost 40 percent of teachers voted against their labor contract, which does away with prescribed pay increases based on years of service. District and union leaders said the change was prompted by a state law that requires performance pay.

Some teachers say doing away with the salary schedule is illegal. District leaders have said the contract is legal.

“It does meet the requirements,” said school board attorney Walter Harvey.

Teachers say they have yet to see their performance pay and that the law does not preclude their previous salary schedules.

“This district does not value my service,” said teacher Isaac Castineira

Another complaint that came up: Florida’s Best and Brightest. The controversial program gives teachers a bonus based on their own college entrance exam scores. But not all teachers took the SAT or ACT because they went to a college that didn’t require the tests. Teacher Margarita Melkeemova said she didn’t have the scores because she attended school in another country.

“I believe that the law discriminates against teachers like me,” she said.

School board member Lawrence Feldman asked the school board attorney for a point-by-point memo to address the concerns brought up at the meeting.

“Sitting up here and just listening is tough,” Feldman said. “I’m looking to you to somehow put out there: here are the answers to some of these things.”

United Teachers of Dade did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.  

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