Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas school district printer contract sparks teacher outcry

Christine Amstutz, a second-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary, says the decision has left her feeling “disregarded.”


Christine Amstutz, a second-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary, says the decision has left her feeling “disregarded.”

Second-grade teacher Christine Amstutz never thought she could get tearful about a printer.

But when word came down at a faculty meeting that teachers' personal classroom printers could be confiscated under a new district directive, something in her broke.

"It just felt like one more thing," said the 25-year teaching veteran.

She wasn't alone.

A new $2 million contract approved by the Pinellas County School Board in mid March that will reduce the numbers of printers teachers can use has become a flash point between an administration diligently trying to save money and ranks of teachers already besieged by budget cuts.

"It's one of the last things a teacher had control over and it's so symbolic," Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Kim Black said. She ticked off a laundry list of things teachers feel they no longer have a say in: "Curriculum. Professional development. Material selection. Technology selection. Schedule of the day. Flow of the day."

But hoping to get employees to think before they print, superintendent John Stewart defended the change. Some schools have more printers than staff, he said.

Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg has 122 printers for 120 employees.

"It boils down to an issue of convenience as opposed to efficiency and effectiveness," Stewart told board members recently.

Last year, the district spent $1 million on toner for an untold number of printers throughout the county — a figure that can be reduced by about 20 percent the first year under the new contract with Ricoh Business Solutions, according to district printing services supervisor Brian Chepren.

Starting July 1, teachers will send most print jobs to more centrally located school machines that can print, copy, fax and scan — and where the cost to print is less than a half-cent per page.

But the news that sparked the biggest backlash from teachers: Any printer not removed from classrooms would become district property, even if it was purchased with personal or donated money.

Teachers who continued to use printers in their rooms would rack up charges of 31/2 cents per page for black and white and 20 cents for color — seven to 44 times higher than if they send their jobs down the hall.

"As a teacher, this decision has left me feeling disregarded and unimportant," Amstutz wrote in a letter to School Board members. Amstutz has two printers in her class, both paid for and maintained with donations and teacher incentive pay, which will no longer be a funding option under the new plan.

In an email to board members, Brooker Creek Elementary teacher Patricia Spears noted "in the elementary classroom, there are many occasions in which we need to have a few more copies right away."

Pages rip. Things spill. Copies are short.

"We do not have the luxury to go to the main copier whenever we would like," said Spears, a second-grade teacher. "Morale has been low over the past few years, and this latest micromanagement will make it even lower."

Amid teacher outcry, the district backed off taking over personal or donated printers. But employees who decide to keep them without putting them on the Ricoh network must pay out of pocket to purchase toner and make repairs.

Some teachers remain skeptical that the new contract will save the district any money.

Colleen Parker, a St. Petersburg High School computer teacher, said she has crunched the figures and believes the contract will cost the district almost $500,000 more each year, not including the printing charges racked up at the desktop printers. That's because the monthly rental fees of the Ricoh machines combined with the per-page printer costs works out to be about $41,500 higher per month than it is now.

Parker has sent her analysis to board members, but Chepren takes exception to it, saying it's impossible to compare the new printer contract with the old copier contract since the tools are different. He also questions her estimates of toner used per page.

Cynthia Heinlein, a 41-year teaching veteran and chair of the business department at East Lake High School, also doubts the savings.

In her school, students use 10 printers in four computer labs to print out hard copies of their assignments, including research papers, and other documents, brochures and newsletters they design in pursuit of industry certification in various software. About 130 to 150 students use each lab per day, she said, and printouts are critical to helping them catch errors they might not spot on the computer screen.

"At some point," Heinlein said, "the money isn't going to be there to help them get their certification because it's going to be used to print their assignments."

Chepren has been trying to address teacher concerns since mid March, when the board approved the contract.

He says he's answered every email personally, visited 10 schools, and as recently as Tuesday sent out a four-point document titled "Myth vs. Fact on Managed Document Services contract" that ruffled teachers' feathers.

"Any time there's change," Chepren said, "it's change, and there's an uprising."

But at Lakewood High — one of the three schools that piloted the new plan in December and January — the rollout met with little criticism, said principal Bob Vicari. He sees the change as minor in the larger picture of trying to save dollars, money that could boost teacher pay.

"Obviously, you don't want to lose people, you don't want to lose benefits, you want to at some point get a raise," he said. Maybe this can help.

Amstutz is hopeful it does. While teachers across the district received an average 1.5 percent step raise districtwide last year — the first salary increase since 2007-08 — that didn't mean pay for every teacher went up, due to cuts in supplements and decreases in tax revenues that contribute to teacher pay.

The School Board supported the move to allow some personal printers to remain in classrooms, but board chairwoman Robin Wikle, at least, believes district officials are on the right track.

"We commissioned Dr. Stewart to save money," she said. "That means looking at everything down to refrigerators, anything that costs money."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or

Pinellas school district printer contract sparks teacher outcry 05/05/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 5, 2012 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  2. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  3. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge


    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”

  4. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments


    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  5. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity


    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]