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Hernando teachers press School Board members to act on raises

Lucille Ketcham, right, a teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School, phones Hernando County School Board members on Thursday to urge them to push for a settlement.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Lucille Ketcham, right, a teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School, phones Hernando County School Board members on Thursday to urge them to push for a settlement.

BROOKSVILLE — Many Hernando County teachers are frustrated by the lack of progress in reaching a deal with the school district to distribute roughly $3.8 million in raise money from the state — especially as they see other districts reaching agreements.

On Thursday evening, they aired those concerns en masse to School Board members.

At the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association's annual general assembly, union officials handed out yellow sheets of paper containing contact information for School Board members and a "message."

Simultaneously, many of the roughly 75 members in attendance whipped out their cellphones and called, texted or emailed the five board members.

"I am calling to ask you to please settle negotiations," the message began. "The governor has promised us a salary increase and is willing to send the money as soon as negotiations are settled. As a teacher in Hernando County, I have been waiting patiently for a significant salary increase for several years now."

The message mirrored the sentiment of the union's negotiating team. The union wants to settle the issue of the raise money before dealing with a new performance-based salary schedule.

The district's bargaining team, on the other hand, believes it is not fiscally responsible to commit the $3.8 million without addressing the other concerns. Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services, has stressed that whatever money is put into the salary schedule will be there in future years, regardless of whether it's funded by the governor.

Union president Jo Ann Hartge said the point of the mass communication was to allow members to "vent their frustration" and see whether they could "move negotiations along quicker."

Elnora Hill, a Pine Grove Elementary School kindergarten teacher, said she feels discouraged by how slowly negotiations are proceeding.

She said she has abandoned hope of receiving the $2,500 raise initially proposed by Gov. Rick Scott; at this point, she just wants something.

"We're wanting them to just settle," Hill said.

Dan Beeman, an exceptional student education teacher at Eastside Elementary School, was more forceful.

"I think the School Board is doing us bad," Beeman said. "The money is there."

Hernando teachers press School Board members to act on raises 01/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 24, 2014 7:02pm]
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