Sunday, November 19, 2017
Education

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises.

"War has been declared against public schools and its educators," said teacher Ahira Torres, one of 88 people signed up to speak during the board’s public comment period. She echoed others, urging the financially strapped district to honor its agreement with the teachers’ union, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

Under a pay plan enacted in 2013, salaries remain the same for three years, then increase in the fourth if the teacher earns at least a satisfactory rating every year. But the district’s plan to hold back a year’s advancement on the salary scale means it won’t pay roughly a third of its 14,000 teachers their scheduled $4,000 raises this year.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Teachers in Hillsborough decide that for a week they will ‘work the contract’

Hundreds of students at Hillsborough high schools walk out to protest teacher wage freezes

"I feel that I am mourning the loss of my dearest love beyond my family," said Tammy Crosby, a teacher at Hillsborough High. "I have justified this love to my family despite being told by my 13-year-old son that I need a new job. I will not leave because I will not be driven out."

Well before Tuesday’s meeting began, district security told the estimated 600 union members and their supporters that the auditorium was at capacity, leaving them waiting behind a row of metal detectors for seats to open up. Outside district headquarters, the demonstrators solicited honks of solidarity from passing drivers. Chants of "We prepare students" and "We deserve respect" carried into the School Board meeting room, easily overshadowing a slide show on the district’s transportation system.

After the first of two rounds of public comments, superintendent Jeff Eakins addressed the crowd, keeping his gaze on a written statement prepared earlier in the day.

When the district entered its current salary agreement with the union four years ago, it was with the knowledge it would change with economic reality, Eakins said. Honoring the agreement relied heavily on grants from the Legislature and a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he said.

The district honored the plan in 2015 and 2016, although its budget officer estimated that doing so cost $17 million each year.

But when Eakins took over the superintendent role in 2015 he discovered the district overspent its reserves by $130 million while increasing staff by more than 900 positions and payroll by more than $35 million. Also, the Gates foundation ended up giving only $80 million to the district.

"Without proper planning, without support from the Legislature and without additional money through grants, the salary plan everyone hoped would be financially viable is not," Eakins told the packed board room.

When he began to tick off the other "tough decisions" the school district has made to balance expenses, teachers walked out one by one to join the cheering and chanting crowd in the lobby. The noise drowned out Eakins’ voice every time the door opened.

THE GRADEBOOK: All education, all the time

Teachers addressing the board spoke of tutoring students after hours to offset meager paychecks and even ending a relationship because dating got too expensive. A handful of high school students also addressed the board, echoing last week’s student walkouts at Strawberry Crest, Alonso, Armwood, Freedom, Jefferson, Middleton, Robinson, Sickles, Hillsborough and Leto high schools.

"You are showing students that it’s okay to go back on your word, to not treat others with respect and to break your promises," said Destiny Cattery, a junior at Strawberry Crest. "I’m asking you to appreciate your employees as much as your children and your grandchildren do."

Students at Strawberry Crest received a day of in-school suspension for participating in the walkouts and on other campuses school resource deputies put an end to the walkouts in a matter of minutes.

Still, teachers have picketed outside Steinbrenner High and encouraged one another to "work the contract" by refraining from doing any work outside regular school hours.

Tuesday’s meeting opened with a reminder from chairwoman Cindy Stuart that board members won’t address the ongoing salary negotiations with the union. The board stuck to that promise, remaining silent as multiple speakers urged Eakins to fund teachers’ salary raises by "cutting the fat" from administrative salaries.

Board member Susan Valdes sat stone-faced as two speakers called for her resignation, and board member April Griffin ignored groans and boos as she told the board why she would be a good vice chairwoman before Tuesday’s board reorganization vote.

The board voted unanimously to name Sally Harris as its chairwoman, and first-year board member Tamara Shamburger won the vice chairwoman role over Griffin.

"I think in this district we have passed over a lot of opportunities to make this district stronger, and I think today we have an opportunity to make a change," Shamburger said.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

Comments

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

BROOKSVILLE — The lab at Eastside Elementary School looks high tech, featuring new flooring, cabinets and furniture. Assistant Principal Michael Lastra calls it cutting edge."It’s not like your typical classroom," Lastra said. "The school wanted it t...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.They’re just ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

ST. PETERSBURG — The athletic facilities at St. Petersburg High are just like Bob Carter remembers from 50 years ago.He recalls it all fondly: The concession stands, ticket booths and bathrooms are still the same. The track is still outdated asphalt,...
Published: 11/15/17
In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

TAMPA — Robert Ryan cleaned out his office in May. He knew he was dying.He had kept driving to the University of South Florida even as he lost the use of his left arm. He had kept teaching English, even as tumors ravaged his mouth so that he could ha...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

The kids at Bing Elementary knew something special was about to happen when a six-foot white dog with a "target" over his right eye walked into the classroom.And they were right.On Tuesday (Nov. 14), volunteers and corporate supporters joined the Hil...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

DADE CITY — Dustin Snodgrass has a photograph of himself as a child in the pilot’s seat of a kid-size model airplane. Snodgrass, now 28, recently took a big step toward his goal of flying real aircraft with his first solo flight through a new profess...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises."War has been declar...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

When it comes to your principles, there is no shame in putting up a fight.You can fight City Hall, and you can fight the power. According to the song, you can fight the law. You can even fight the good fight, whatever that means.But you cannot fight ...
Published: 11/14/17