LAND O'LAKES — Pasco School Board members unanimously rejected a $24 pay raise out of hand when considering their salary on Tuesday.
They cut their pay by $1,294 instead. Now they make the same amount as a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree, $36,420 per year.
"I just can't see and I can't do in good faith giving a raise to the board members when we have teachers out there who are working two jobs, cutting back," board member Cathi Martin said. "Maybe we'll get back on the right track soon. At that point I'd like to revisit the financial situation. … I would like that we put our teachers and SRP's (school-related personnel) first."
Each year at this time, board members see their pay rate change slightly, following population-based formulas set by the state.
This year was different because lawmakers said that board members should receive the state salary formula or the lowest teacher salary, whichever is less.
That would have been easy. But the administration noted that one recommendation was to annualize the starting teacher salary, which would have made it more than $45,000 — well above the pay rate that the legislative committee set.
But the Pasco board would have no part of that. Board member Kathryn Starkey said the very suggestion that it was a possibility simply fanned up emotion unnecessarily.
"I don't think this does the district any good," she said, noting that she had received e-mails from people thinking the board might increase its pay by thousands.
Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said the statute guiding this process was ambiguous, making it easy for misinformation to flow. Lawmakers have said their intent was clear.
During a workshop on policy, the board also tackled the issue of whether district employees would have to send all communication to board members through the superintendent.
The United School Employees of Pasco complained about the proposal. Board members took their side.
"We have received a tremendous number of e-mails from staff when there are hot-button issues. I would like to continue to receive them," board member Joanne Hurley said. "This would almost preclude that."
Advisers from NEOLA, the firm helping to rewrite the policy manual, explained that the goal was to prevent employees from circumventing district procedures. But board members didn't see any problems with changing the proposal to meet the union's concern.
Neither did Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, who said she preferred that employees use their personal computers and time to send their correspondence.
"I don't care," she said about changing the policy. "Fine with me."
The board removed the requirement.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.