On November 16, 2023, the Osceola County Education Association and the School District of Osceola County held another bargaining meeting in the hope of coming to new agreements to help the ESP staff of Osceola County. At the previous meeting, OCEA proposed language to include a Non-Discrimination Clause within the contract, a $2.00 per hour differential for the 441 paraprofessionals working within self-contained classrooms, and a $3.00 per hour differential for the paraprofessionals who are working as the full-time substitute teacher in the classroom. OCEA believes these employees are working in high needs areas with some of the most vulnerable population of students throughout the district.

However, the district did not return responses for the Non-Discrimination language or the $2.00 per hour differential. OCEA is puzzled as to why the district would not agree to Non-Discrimination language. It did respond in an agreement to the $3.00 per hour, but the employees would lose the $60 Substitute Stipend currently provided. This would result in a net loss for these paraprofessionals. OCEA believes this offer demonstrates how little respect the district’s management team has for the employees.OCEA would never agree to take money out of the pockets of the employees who are paid the least amount in the district while trying to survive paycheck to paycheck in the toughest economy this generation has ever experienced. While each paraprofessional received a 5% COLA at the beginning of the year, when earning the base salary of $15 an hour, that only added an additional .75 cents.

OCEA did present new bereavement language for consideration to strengthen the language because of the numerous calls from members upset due to denial of such leave for family members to include aunts, uncles, and brother or sisters-in-law. OCEA believes the current language to be culturally insensitive and fails to consider that SDOC recruits many educators from out of state. The following language was proposed:

An employee may be granted up to three (3) additional paid days of Bereavement Leave for the death of an immediate family member as defined in sick leave. Bereavement Leave is not transferrable or accruable and must be used within thirty (30) calendar days of the death.

Application shall be made to the immediate supervisor in advance whenever possible.

Employees must provide a copy of the obituary, funeral notice, or other satisfactory document attached to the Employee Application for Leave Form. Details about the family member’s relationship may be required. Two (2) additional paid days of Bereavement Leave may be granted when the family member resided out of state.

Negotiations are expected to continue in January. OCEA suggests now is the time for education staff professionals who are in the self-contained classrooms begin sharing the challenges which they face each day with the school board members who will ultimately direct bargaining decisions.