Show them the money
On the eve of a holiday that celebrates workers, the Gradebook takes a moment to air a concern from one employee group - Pinellas teachers - some of whom are upset that they don't yet know how much money they're making this school year.
While their counterparts in Hillsborough, Polk and a growing number of districts have settled their contracts with raises, Pinellas teachers have gotten only pleas for patience. Here's what Ron Stone, associate superintendent for human resources, had to say in a recent e-mail to the staff:
"As you know, the state of Florida is going through a complex review of the current financial status of the state budget and has notified state, district and local governmental agencies that there will be a revenue shortfall in response to the downturn in Florida’s economy. However, we have not yet received any definitive word as to the amount of the projected shortfall.
In the spring of 2006-07, the collaborative bargaining team agreed to delay bargaining on financial issues until such time as the district had a better picture on how much new revenue we would actually receive from the state. Consequently, employees will not see any increase in salaries until the bargaining teams can review the financial data we receive from Tallahassee and develop new salary schedules for 2007-08. There are no automatic step increases or cost of living raises in our current labor agreements. The Florida Legislature will begin its Special Session on September 18th at which time we expect to see a more complete analysis of any loss of revenue Pinellas County may suffer.
Please be patient and know that we are working as hard as possible, despite the uncertainty of the state budget, to ensure we do the best we can for our employees and their families. Our district Budget and Finance Department staff are carefully monitoring the information coming from the state to attempt to craft a budget that will maintain stability in the district while still rewarding our employees for their service and commitment to students and families."
These words offer little solace to some teachers, who expected to at least have their annual, contracted increases based on years of service by now.
"This just speaks to the complete lack or respect the school board and the superintendent have for the teachers and support staff," one teacher, who calls himself "A Hard Working Teacher," writes to the Gradebook. "I am sure they are not hurting financially at the top while the rest of us are checking under the cushions for pennies."
Union leaders say it's better to wait until they know exactly how much money they can get, so teachers are best served. They add that step increases are not guaranteed, and the pay scale is renegotiated every year. But once the contract is settled, they add, teachers will get their raises retroactively. Stay tuned.