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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco school employees protest budget without raises



Pacteach091708a_38304c About 250 Pasco school employees lined U.S. 41 outside the school district headquarters this afternoon, chanting and jeering against the School Board's plan to approve a budget without raises.

"I don't think our superintendent is trying hard enough to find ways to compensate teachers for all they do, especially in a time when there is such an economic need," Pine View Middle art teacher Rich Sanders told the Gradebook as he prepared to take to the line.

Cars and trucks honked, and drivers waved as they passed the protest, which migrated into the boardroom at 6 p.m. to allow employees to register their dismay with the proposed spending plan.

The displeasure bubbled over in the room, but it was not shared by all. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino also received several e-mails in support of the budget.

Student services secretary Lynn Hathaway was one of those writers.

"There are thousands of people out right now looking for positions, any positions, to work," Hathaway told the Gradebook. "We work in a very proud organization. We have our positions, and we are well taken care of by the district. I believe this woman (Fiorentino) is doing the right thing to see that none of us lose our positions."

UPDATE: The board heard 2-1/2 hours of comment from district employees before approving the budget 4-1, with Cathi Martin opposed.

"All of us appreciate you coming here and talking to us," board member Marge Whaley told the audience before the vote. "But you have to understand, the budget is fluid and we must approve a budget today. We do not have a choice. However, next meeting that same budget can be amended."

Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said the board's priority was to avoid layoffs, something it has done for now. But about $8-million more in cuts are coming, she noted, and it's possible that some people will lose jobs.

The district and employees are scheduled to return to the bargaining table tomorrow.

(Times photo, Brendan Fitterer)

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:56am]


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