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Hillsborough teachers call for School Board support as contract talks drag on

Dozens of Hillsborough County school teachers, many of them wearing red in solidarity, came to the School Board meeting on Nov. 1, 2016, to voice concerns about their extended contract talks with the district. The teachers are working under their contract from last year. [Marlene Sokol | Times]

Dozens of Hillsborough County school teachers, many of them wearing red in solidarity, came to the School Board meeting on Nov. 1, 2016, to voice concerns about their extended contract talks with the district. The teachers are working under their contract from last year. [Marlene Sokol | Times]

TAMPA — Ryan and Erin Haczynski have good jobs at good schools.

But, as months have dragged on without a new teacher contract, they have begun to feel undervalued.

"It is unfair to balance the budget on the backs of your primary workforce while continuing to hire six figure salaried employees for your top ranks," Ryan Haczynski, a social studies teacher at Strawberry Crest High School, told the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday.

His wife, who teaches at Randall Middle School, said that despite increasing demands and accountability, a "total lack of respect for teachers" is at an all-time high.

The couple were among more than a dozen teachers who showed up at Tuesday's 3 p.m. hearing, wearing red clothing in solidarity.

Some left their jobs early, or took personal leave time. The union has been trying to get the board to move its meeting times to later in the day, and executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins told the board that 4,000 people have signed a petition in favor of that change.

More than a month has passed since the union and district leaders have met to negotiate the current year's contract. Teachers now are working under terms of the 2015-16 contract. Some are waiting for bonus money, scheduled raises and other supplements.

By delaying negotiations "you completely disregard what we do and what we stand for as educators," said Naze Sahebzamani, a social studies teacher at Robinson High School.

A bargaining session is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Negotiations were long and difficult last year as well and, to avoid delays, the two sides agreed to begin no later than the first week in May.

But, at the same time, district leaders are trying to cut spending, largely through a reduction in the school system's workforce of 26,000.

Jobs under scrutiny include hundreds of non-classroom teaching jobs. District leaders hope some of its resource teachers and subject coaches will move into classroom jobs. To keep those jobs available, the district is under a hiring freeze.

The district hopes to cut $130 million in spending this year in an ongoing effort to protect its reserve funds.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 810-5068 or msokol@tampbay.com. Follow @marlenesokol

Hillsborough teachers call for School Board support as contract talks drag on 11/01/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2016 7:12pm]
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