Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco teachers to unite in symbolic walkout

The work day at Woodland Elementary School in Zephyrhills ends at 4 p.m.

Most days, fifth-grade teacher Ken Carpenter and many of his colleagues stay longer. But not this coming Wednesday.

Woodland Elementary teachers and staff — along with their counterparts at schools across Pasco County — plan to walk away in unison after the final day of classes, to demonstrate their displeasure with a proposal to cancel their annual salary step increases and freeze their pay for next year.

They also plan to wear black to signal Wednesday as one of mourning.

"This is to show what could happen if we all stuck to the contract and left," said Carpenter, a 37-year teacher who doesn't stand to get a step increase but thinks his co-workers should get one. "A lot of us work hard. … We feel like we deserve it."

Step increases are annual raises based on years of service. For teachers, they range in amount from $350 to $850, before taxes. And according to the teachers' contract, they earn the step up after they complete at least half their 196-day work year.

"It is a negotiated item and it is something that was promised," said Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco. "That is why we fight over it."

Webb suggested that the School Board and district administration seem to be doing more to justify why they can't afford the increases than to find money to meet the commitment of $5-million or so. The USEP leaders from each school met earlier this week, she said, and "they felt it was very important that they have the opportunity to send one last message before the end of the school year."

Even the staunchest teacher supporters on the School Board indicated that a demonstration would have little effect on them.

"I think we already have the message," said Marge Whaley, who has instructed superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her staff to look for ways to fund the step increases. "I think the message should really be for the legislators who put us in this position" of having to cut spending. "I don't need convincing."

Vice chairman Frank Parker, considered Fiorentino's closest ally on the board, said he, too, would like to pay teachers more. He also pointed to the Legislature, which sets school districts' budget levels, as the reason that higher pay isn't likely.

"We've only got X number of dollars to work with," Parker said. "We're the middleman in this transaction here, and we're getting all the heat. They should have been in Tallahassee three months ago."

Teachers across Florida have lamented the poor state of education funding for the coming year with the symbolic wearing of black.

Shortly after the Legislature closed its session, educators in Hernando, Citrus, Sumter and Marion counties staged a "Day of Mourning" for public education by donning black clothes on the same day. Organizers lamented reduced bonuses for National Board-certified teachers and local proposals to cut or freeze pay, noting that requirements to meet the state's education standards remained unchanged.

Earlier this week, about 60 teachers turned out for the Pinellas School Board meeting dressed in black to protest the Legislature's decision to cut education funding. Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Kim Black said the protest was "to symbolize the grief we feel" over the cuts, which could include a pay freeze.

Webb noted that it's not just teachers who face the pay freeze. It's also bus drivers, custodians and other school-related personnel who earn much less than teachers and who often struggle to make ends meet. The USEP is holding a job fair for them today to help them find summer work.

"Our teachers and our SRPs make sacrifices every day," Webb said. "They are a selfless group and I think sometimes people take that for granted."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at


What's at stake

Pasco teachers and noninstructional staffers are facing a pay freeze for the coming year, and many aren't pleased. Here are some of the terms of their employment:


Length of workday (contracted): 7.5 hours

Length of work year: 196 days, including six paid holidays (unpaid summer break, 10 weeks)

Annual sick leave: 10 days (includes six days of paid personal leave)

"Step" increases: $350 to $850, depending on years of service

Base salary: $36,420 (bachelor's degree, no experience)

Highest salary: $63,870 (doctorate, 30 years' experience)

School-related personnel

Length of workday (contracted): varies depending on job

Length of work year: varies depending on job (six paid holidays if work a full year)

Annual sick leave: 10 days (includes six days of paid personal leave)

"Step" increases: 15 cents to 85 cents per hour

Base salary: $8.45 per hour

Highest salary: $22.30 per hour

Pasco teachers to unite in symbolic walkout 05/30/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2008 4:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  2. Manslaughter charges eyed in deadly London fire sparked by refrigerator


    LONDON — Manslaughter charges are among the offenses under consideration in the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze that killed 79 people, London police said Friday.

    A view of part of the Burnham residential tower on the Chalcots Estate showing the bottom section of the building after cladding was removed, in the borough of Camden, north London, Thursday, June 22, 2017. Tests so far have found that at least three high-rise apartment buildings in the U.K. have flammable external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed 79 people in London, Britain's government said Thursday. The local council in Camden, a borough of London, removed cladding from one of its buildings for further testing after tests they commissioned showed some of their panels were of the flammable variety "and not the ones they ordered." It was unclear whether the Camden example was one of the three mentioned by the government. [Associated Press]
  3. PolitiFact: 6 questions about the Senate health care bill and transparency


    Now that a Senate health care bill has been unveiled, senators will be jousting over its provisions to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington on June 20. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  4. Bicylist critically injured in crash involving SUV on Bayside Bridge


    A bicyclist was critically injured Friday morning when a driver drifted into his lane and struck him on the Bayside Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  5. Remnants of Cindy expected to drench Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia (w/video)


    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Forecasters expect remnants of Tropical Depression Cindy to drench parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia Friday afternoon and evening, bringing heavy rainfall, possible flash flooding and higher river and lake levels through the weekend.

    Wth a rising tide, strong southerly winds from Tropical Depression Cindy lash the lakefront Thursday, June 22, 2017 in Mandeville, La. [David Grunfeld | The Times-Picayune via AP]