First day of Brevard teacher contract talks fizzles with no agreements

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The first day at the bargaining table fizzled with no agreements and little progress toward the 2020-21 Brevard County teacher contracts, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

After two 60-minute sessions, bargaining teams from Brevard Public Schools and the Brevard Federation of Teachers union left the table empty-handed Thursday after district leaders said they needed time to review the union's proposals.

Union leaders are demanding additional safety and leave provisions as they prepare to return to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Expanded family and medical leave if federal emergency paid leave provisions, guaranteed by the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, expires before the end of the school year
  • Guaranteed illness/injury-in-the-line of duty leave if a teacher is required to quarantine due to COVID-19
  • Students and staff will be expected to wear masks in any situation requiring less than six feet of social distancing
  • Teachers at high-risk of the virus or who live with a high-risk family member shall not be required to supervise students in any situation requiring less than six feet of social distancing and more than 10 students
  • The district will establish protocols for anonymously reporting dangerous conditions

Union Vice President Vanessa Skipper said she was "disappointed" with the outcome.

“They weren’t able to respond to any of our proposals,” Skipper said. “It almost appeared their hands were tied and they really didn’t have power to make decisions.”

Karyle Green, the school district's chief negotiator, dismissed that suggestion.

“There were things they brought we can certainly agree, but there were also things that are going to take a little time to get to the people in the know that we’re able to respond,” Green said, noting Thursday was the first time the district had seen the union’s demands.

"We're in an environment right now that is changing daily," Green said. "Our team has the authority to make decisions but we don't have all the answers (yet)."

As of late Thursday, no date had been set for a second round of bargaining. With teachers set to return to schools in less than three weeks, leaders from both sides noted the urgency of the talks.

"We still need to bargain salary and health insurance and normal things," Skipper said. "If we're still kind of stuck ... that's going to put us dangerously close to when students and teachers are going to be on campus."

“I’m with them,” Green said. “Time is of the essence. But we’re going to get there.”

Brevard Superintendent Mark Mullins said he was confident his staff would "carefully weigh and consider" the union's proposals.

“I’m confident we will work with them to do what’s in the best interest of the teachers,” he said. “Working through topics will take careful work, as we would expect when we’re talking about our staff. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority.”

News 6 partner Florida Today reported on this story