Teachers union files grievance against school district

Reporter: Claire Galt Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Overworked and extremely underpaid is what Lee County teachers say they’re dealing with, and now the teachers’ union has filed a grievance.

A year ago, teachers got paid when they covered a classroom that was vacant. In other words, did not have a teacher for whatever reason. Whether it be due to a shortage, sudden absence or no sub was available.

For most teachers, that meant covering that class in addition to their own. This year, the district admits it doesn’t have money to pay teachers who are covering vacant classrooms.

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Letter sent to Lee County teachers three days before the start of the school year. CREDIT: WINK News

Without a heads-up or warning, Lee County schools sent a letter to teachers on Aug. 7, three days before the start of the school year. The executive director of human resources informed teachers the district spent all of its ESSER funds, money set aside to pay teachers when they cover vacant classrooms and their classrooms at the same time.

Kerr Fazzone, the director of the teachers union, told WINK News only teachers who give up their planning period get a bump in pay. Keep in mind, with Lee County schools short 178 teachers, those on the job are often asked to cover another class.

“They’re doing additional work without additional compensation this year,” said Fazzone before the hearing.

The letter does not explain why Lee County schools have no more money for coverage, only that it’s gone. So Fazzone filed a grievance.

WINK News talked with him after the hearing on Friday because WINK News wasn’t allowed inside the meeting.

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Grievance filed. CREDIT: WINK News

WINK News asked him what the district had to say about where the $8.2 million set aside for coverage pay went.

“They told us that in the last school year, they spent around $24 million for classroom coverage when about $8.2 million was what they planned on,” said Fazzone.

Fazonne said it’s not the teachers’ fault the district needed so many teachers to cover so many classes a year ago. And he does not believe teachers should pay a price for that during this school year.

“Teachers left for their short summer break, and come back to the same if not worse, shortage conditions. they need it. They are doing one of the greatest public services, you know, for our children and our society,” said Fazzone. “They are overworked, drastically underpaid, and we’re asking them to do even more with the same and it’s just an injustice in my mind.”

The union said the district’s defense was that there was such a need for teachers to cover, that it just kept paying it.

Lee County schools have seven days to respond to the grievance.

A spokesman told WINK News it would be inappropriate to comment.

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