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Contract negotiations between the Collier County School District and the local teachers union have started, with working conditions and tweaks to the agreement on the table.

Official proposals have yet to be submitted by the district and the Collier County Education Association, the local teachers union, but officials have met five times for bargaining sessions.

Collier County Public Schools Human Resources Director Valerie Wenrich, who is leading negotiations for the district, said it's still very early in the process.

More: Photos: Collier County teachers participate in statewide 'walk-in'

Salaries and benefits are off the table until both parties submit proposals. The full bargaining agreement is open for negotiation this year, not just strictly compensation. 

Wenrich said the district will start talks with Teamsters Local 79, which represents non-classroom employees, this summer because of tight schedules during the school year.

There are no tentative agreements on any proposals yet, Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the union wrote in an email. Both sides have until the seventh meeting after Florida's legislative session closes to bring forward proposals, Tuttle said. The session closed last week. 

The union's goal this bargaining season is to improve learning conditions for students by improving working conditions for teachers.

"Our big ones are time and money," Tuttle said. "Teachers need time to work as professionals in preparation for their classes. The district needs time to train, review data and do all sorts of other things with teachers."

More: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill allowing armed teachers in Florida

Teachers' work demands are a recurring problem with many teachers bringing work home with them, Tuttle said. 

"There's only 'X' amount of time in the day," Tuttle said. "There's not enough time in the day to get the things done that they need to do, like planning and grading, preparing for class."

Tuttle said teachers know what they need to do and how much time they need to do it. 

"Somewhere there's a line where we have to find it that works best for the professional in the classroom," Tuttle said. "Our view of that differs from the district, but we just have to find wherever that line is."

Wenrich and Tuttle did not go into specifics on proposals due to bargaining restrictions, but both said communication has been amicable. Tuttle said they work well together. 

“We really just try to maintain that relationship and the understanding of their desires and their concerns,” Wenrich said. “There’s very little argument. We work very closely together."

The biggest issue facing Collier County schools and other Florida districts is teacher recruitment and retention, Tuttle said.

The average annual salary for teachers in Collier County is $54,054, the third-highest in the state, but affordable housing in the county is an ongoing issue for the district. 

More: Collier schools look to hire 350 teachers, says retention rate average

Collier County's teacher retention rate is 89.29% for the 2017-18 school year, according to the school district's most recent available data. 

"Our proposals are designed to make this an attractive place for teachers to come by providing that time and hopefully getting a decent salary increase," Tuttle said. "We've got to compete not just with Florida counties, but with the rest of the nation."

A proposed agreement would be presented to the School Board for approval, and the public would have a chance to comment on it, Wenrich said.

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