BROOKSVILLE — It's not a good time to be looking for a job upgrade in the Hernando County schools.
On Tuesday, School Board member Jim Malcolm told his colleagues he'd found the perfect applicant for the new position of gifted education coordinator.
There was just one problem: The applicant had already turned the district down once over salary.
But Malcolm, a longtime supporter of the gifted program, urged the board to convert the $42,000 teaching position to an administrative or staff job in order to pay her what she wanted.
"I'm telling you this is too good to be true, and we are going to lose this individual over a matter of $9,000 or $10,000," said Malcolm, praising the qualifications of Seminole County teacher Keri Guilbault.
Her would-be supervisor at Explorer K-8's new gifted center, principal Dominick Ferello, said Guilbault had it all: gifted certification, plenty of teaching experience in that area, and national publications with Mensa, which calls itself an international "society for bright people" with high IQs.
But other board members were having none of it.
"I don't blame her for trying to get more money," said Chairwoman Sandra Nicholson. "Everyone does, right?"
"People are looking at us each and every day, every move we make with regard to salary and positions," said Pat Fagan. "We don't need to do anything to hurt this (gifted) program any more than it is, because not everyone is supportive of it."
Board member John Sweeney said the school could take funds from a planned media specialist position to make up the difference.
But colleague Dianne Bonfield said the school's 2,100 students needed a full-time media specialist more than an additional administrator. It has three assistant principals.
"Since when do we do business this way, trying to fit salaries to the person we are hiring?" she added, describing the proposal as a dangerous precedent.
Earlier in the evening, the board agreed to extend superintendent Wayne Alexander's contract until 2010, with a 5.5 percent raise to $125,545 and $100 increase in monthly travel expenses to $600.
He had initially requested a 14 percent increase, which he said was in line with average salaries for similar-sized districts.
Malcolm cast the lone vote against the contract. He said he had full faith in the superintendent.
But in a tough budget year, he said, he had little enthusiasm for the idea of granting a raise before salary negotiations with teachers have even begun.
"I think in accepting that (contract) now we're premature," Malcolm said. "It's not in keeping with the way we've done things in the past, and I'm disappointed that we're being called upon to do that now."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.