Teachers' additions could be subtracted

LAND O'LAKES — Ask Mike Wood his thoughts on the pay he receives for coaching basketball and serving as athletic director at Bayonet Point Middle, and he's pretty blunt: "It's extra income," the veteran teacher says drily.

How much? The "supplements" add 9 percent to Wood's base salary. Other teachers get even more.

All told, the Pasco school district pays out $3.18-million to teachers who coach, mentor, sponsor certain clubs or otherwise work beyond their contracted day. Some make as much as 18 percent of their teaching wage.

That all could change as the School Board seeks to find areas to cut 2008-09 spending to keep it in line with decreasing tax revenue. Gov. Charlie Crist signed a budget last week that would force Pasco to trim about $16-million, and one day later announced he would withhold an additional 4 percent in funding for all state agencies, including school districts.

Pasco School Board member Marge Whaley has proposed slashing supplemental pay by 25 percent, or $917,500.

That idea attracted little interest at the board's most recent budget workshop, where much of the conversation focused on possible administrative cuts. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she did not plan to recommend reducing the supplements, saying that many teachers consider them part of their pay, which administrators say they are trying not to decrease.

Fiorentino has recommended freezing salaries and canceling step increases for years of service, something that teachers already have protested.

If the board wants to increase pay, she said, benefits are a more likely target for changes. Still, Fiorentino said cutting supplements is "an issue that continues to come up."

Since the budget workshop, as money news has worsened, even those board members who initially signaled they might resist such cuts in pay for coaches and sponsors indicated that the idea might gain traction out of sheer necessity.

"We all have our certain programs that we're trying to protect. I've been out there for athletics pretty vocally," chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said. "But as we keep getting news of cuts, cuts, cuts, there's going to be nothing that is sacred. Nothing."

Wood sounded fairly accepting of the new reality.

"In these tough economic times, you're going to have to tighten up your belt," he said. "If that's the course they take, then that's the course they take. … That doesn't mean I'm going to quit coaching. I'm not in it for the money."

That's a common reaction. Most teachers are quick to note that if they wanted to make big bucks, they wouldn't be working in public education.

Still, many don't like the idea of seeing their work devalued.

"We're not asking for any increase," said Land O'Lakes High media specialist Kris Keppel, who coaches cross country and track, which are targeted separately for additional cuts. "We're just asking for it to stay the same."

Keppel noted that he already volunteers as his school's Interact club sponsor, because he feels it's important to get kids involved in their community. He also works to raise money to support his teams in the community, and he contributes some of his own cash, too.

"They've got to think of other ways to do this," Keppel said.

One potential stumbling block to any supplemental pay cut is the teachers' contract.

The School Board and United School Employees of Pasco have the pay schedule in that legally binding agreement, so changes would have to be negotiated.

"The USEP is not proposing that any supplements be reduced," said president Lynne Webb, who has been seeking ways to increase rather than cut salaries. "Our supplements are already woefully behind those in other areas."

Pasco pays a head football coach $3,100 for the fall season. Hillsborough pays $3,736, and Hernando pays $3,321. Pasco gives a department head $958 a year extra. Hillsborough department heads get a minimum of $2,124. Pasco high school business managers receive $1,793 in a yearly supplement. Hillsborough's earn $3,419.

"To ask people to continue to give their time and pay them less would not be acceptable to the union," Webb said.

Teacher contract negotiations are scheduled to begin next week. The School Board has not yet set its next budget workshop.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Teachers' additions could be subtracted 06/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 8:11pm]

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