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"Teachers first' was bad joke

Editor: On Jan. 9, the Hernando County School Board and the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association met in an impasse hearing. They could not agree on what the teachers' salaries would be for the coming school year.

The teachers' contract has a salary schedule in it. This schedule is based on years of experience. A beginning teacher with no experience is on Step 0 on the schedule, while a teacher in his/her fifth year of teaching will be on Step 4.

Until about five years ago, when school began in August, all teachers automatically moved up to the next step each year. The teacher who was on Step 0 would now be on Step 1; the teacher who had been on Step 4 would now be on Step 5. This was not considered a raise. The teachers' salary was only reflecting the extra year of experience. The teachers association then negotiated for any salary increase beyond the "step raise."

However, several years back, the School Board began holding back the step increases. Apparently, another county's teachers filed a complaint with its school board, and the school board won. Because of this, our county decided that step increases would no longer be automatic. However, teachers new to Hernando County, but with experience from other school districts, were being paid at the proper experience level.

During the 1996 hearing, Superintendent John Sanders said that in the future teachers salaries would be budgeted first. Board member Jim Malcolm also stated that the School Board had learned a lesson, and that in the next school year there would be no need for an impasse hearing because teachers would be first. Mr. Malcolm then made a joke about how they could hold an impasse hearing in February instead.

Well, Mr. Malcolm, the joke was not funny as I sat in the Central High School auditorium on March 10. There was a second impasse hearing, and it was even more disheartening than the previous one.

Admittedly, I am biased. I am a member of the teachers' association negotiating team. I thought our presentation was extremely well-done. I know how hard everyone worked. Maureen Dinnan, Cliff Wagner, Vince LaBorante and Carl Harner did an excellent job in presenting their information. Don Wilcox read a letter from Francine Bogart, who was unable to attend. Kathleen Long, the Hernando County Teacher of the Year, made a very eloquent speech, which had many people in the audience in tears.

By contrast, the superintendent's presentation was short and lacked data.

Basically, all he did was repeat last year's refrain ("Sorry, we can't afford it.") Whenever a board member asked a question of the superintendent's team, the answers were not there. There were very few questions from the board. However, Chairman John Druzbick apparently was more into monitoring the teachers' behavior with his gavel than in listening to our presentation. Board member Sandra Nicholson did not make any comments, but rather sipped her drink from Wendy's. Even board member Steve Galydick did not have as many questions as usual.

The board went out on a break. After the break, it voted unanimously to accept all the superintendent's recommendations, with one very slight modification as a concession to the experienced teachers. I was stunned. They had no discussion. I thought the whole point of the impasse hearing was to bring everything into the open. All the hours of preparation had been useless.

I am not naive; I have been in this county for 12 years. I believed before the hearing that the board would find in the superintendent's favor. However, I at least hoped for some discussion. I was really devastated by this hearing. I feel totally betrayed by the School Board.

I hope that everyone in Hernando County joins me in condemning the actions of this board. I believe if its members could vote unanimously like they did, that all teachers and citizens in Hernando County will join me in unanimously voting every single one of them out of office as their terms expire. I also urge all concerned citizens in Hernando County to begin calling their School Board members and asking them to please make teachers a priority next year.

Susan Pribil

Brooksville

Whining over wages

shows lack of vision

Editor: I am just sick and tired of hearing Northern transplants continuously whining, complaining and grumbling about the low wages in Florida. They constantly rave about the Northern wages, comparing them with those here.

Didn't any of the complainers have enough vision and plain common sense to find out about the Florida wage/labor market before packing up the family and heading south for the good life? Did they just wake up one morning in Hernando County and realize that the $17-an-hour job they walked out on up north is only worth $6 an hour down here?

Please give the rest of us a break and shut up about it. If you can't do that, maybe that $17-an-hour job up north is still open. I really doubt it, though; someone with some vision probably works there now.

Bill Hamilton

Spring Hill

Issue season beach passes

to tax-tired year-rounders

Editor: As the county grows, the cost of living here is becoming a nightmare. Everything is taxed, and nothing is free.

People who at one time had a choice of going to the beach or the park can no longer enjoy that privilege unless they pay. We are taxed for everything except for the air we breathe, and that wouldn't be too easy.

The tourists who visit the area get the best of both worlds: They live here in the winter then run home in the summer season.

If the county needs more taxes to support their needs, such as road and school improvements as the populations grow, higher fees and taxes will go on and on.

It's not fair. If you don't have $2, then you can't enjoy our beaches. Residents could buy a season pass, and let tourists pay the day-to-day prices. As a suggestion, the county commissioners could vote to issue a seasonal pass foryear-round Hernando County residents.

Nancy A. DiGulio

Spring Hill

Domestic violence funding

idea deserves our thanks

Editor: During these times when public dollars are becoming more scarce to support agencies providing services to those in need, one can wonder if our legislators truly understand the needs. State Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite is one who understands the big picture and the many needs.

Recognizing that the Legislature may not be able to increase funding for services such as domestic violence programs, Senator Brown-Waite tries creative ways to find funding. Once again, she has succeeded.

As part of a settlement reached between a company against which claims of violations of Florida's marketing rules were violated, a charitable donation was made to Sunrise Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program in the amount of $25,000.

Not only did this come at a time when the agency is stretched to its maximum in trying to meet all the needs, it came without any strings. This means these funds can be used where there is the greatest need, not where an outside body directs it to go.

Thank God we have legislators who not only recognize the need, but are creative in solving problems for constituents. On behalf of the clients, staff and board of trustees, thank you, Senator Ginny Brown-Waite.

Penny Morrill, CEO

Sunrise of Pasco County

Dade City

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