Advertisement
  1. Education

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times   Teachers from Pride Elementary School, from left: Leslie Indre, Suzy Tkacik, and Cathy Kaylor-Bean chant "Keep your promise" outside a Hillsborough School Board meeting at the Hillsborough County School district offices in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday, Nov., 14, 2017.
Gabriella Angotti-Jones | Times Teachers from Pride Elementary School, from left: Leslie Indre, Suzy Tkacik, and Cathy Kaylor-Bean chant "Keep your promise" outside a Hillsborough School Board meeting at the Hillsborough County School district offices in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday, Nov., 14, 2017.
Published Nov. 15, 2017

TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises.

"War has been declared against public schools and its educators," said teacher Ahira Torres, one of 88 people signed up to speak during the board's public comment period. She echoed others, urging the financially strapped district to honor its agreement with the teachers' union, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

Under a pay plan enacted in 2013, salaries remain the same for three years, then increase in the fourth if the teacher earns at least a satisfactory rating every year. But the district's plan to hold back a year's advancement on the salary scale means it won't pay roughly a third of its 14,000 teachers their scheduled $4,000 raises this year.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Teachers in Hillsborough decide that for a week they will 'work the contract'

Hundreds of students at Hillsborough high schools walk out to protest teacher wage freezes

"I feel that I am mourning the loss of my dearest love beyond my family," said Tammy Crosby, a teacher at Hillsborough High. "I have justified this love to my family despite being told by my 13-year-old son that I need a new job. I will not leave because I will not be driven out."

Well before Tuesday's meeting began, district security told the estimated 600 union members and their supporters that the auditorium was at capacity, leaving them waiting behind a row of metal detectors for seats to open up. Outside district headquarters, the demonstrators solicited honks of solidarity from passing drivers. Chants of "We prepare students" and "We deserve respect" carried into the School Board meeting room, easily overshadowing a slide show on the district's transportation system.

After the first of two rounds of public comments, superintendent Jeff Eakins addressed the crowd, keeping his gaze on a written statement prepared earlier in the day.

When the district entered its current salary agreement with the union four years ago, it was with the knowledge it would change with economic reality, Eakins said. Honoring the agreement relied heavily on grants from the Legislature and a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he said.

The district honored the plan in 2015 and 2016, although its budget officer estimated that doing so cost $17 million each year.

But when Eakins took over the superintendent role in 2015 he discovered the district overspent its reserves by $130 million while increasing staff by more than 900 positions and payroll by more than $35 million. Also, the Gates foundation ended up giving only $80 million to the district.

"Without proper planning, without support from the Legislature and without additional money through grants, the salary plan everyone hoped would be financially viable is not," Eakins told the packed board room.

When he began to tick off the other "tough decisions" the school district has made to balance expenses, teachers walked out one by one to join the cheering and chanting crowd in the lobby. The noise drowned out Eakins' voice every time the door opened.

THE GRADEBOOK: All education, all the time

Teachers addressing the board spoke of tutoring students after hours to offset meager paychecks and even ending a relationship because dating got too expensive. A handful of high school students also addressed the board, echoing last week's student walkouts at Strawberry Crest, Alonso, Armwood, Freedom, Jefferson, Middleton, Robinson, Sickles, Hillsborough and Leto high schools.

"You are showing students that it's okay to go back on your word, to not treat others with respect and to break your promises," said Destiny Cattery, a junior at Strawberry Crest. "I'm asking you to appreciate your employees as much as your children and your grandchildren do."

Students at Strawberry Crest received a day of in-school suspension for participating in the walkouts and on other campuses school resource deputies put an end to the walkouts in a matter of minutes.

Still, teachers have picketed outside Steinbrenner High and encouraged one another to "work the contract" by refraining from doing any work outside regular school hours.

Tuesday's meeting opened with a reminder from chairwoman Cindy Stuart that board members won't address the ongoing salary negotiations with the union. The board stuck to that promise, remaining silent as multiple speakers urged Eakins to fund teachers' salary raises by "cutting the fat" from administrative salaries.

Board member Susan Valdes sat stone-faced as two speakers called for her resignation, and board member April Griffin ignored groans and boos as she told the board why she would be a good vice chairwoman before Tuesday's board reorganization vote.

The board voted unanimously to name Sally Harris as its chairwoman, and first-year board member Tamara Shamburger won the vice chairwoman role over Griffin.

"I think in this district we have passed over a lot of opportunities to make this district stronger, and I think today we have an opportunity to make a change," Shamburger said.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. More than 1,300 summer and fall graduates were eligible to participate in the morning or afternoon commencement ceremonies Dec. 11 at the Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey campus. Approximately 345 degrees and certificates were conferred. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    Two ceremonies were held at the New Port Richey campus.
  2. Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins, shown at Mort Elementary School in 2016, is retiring effective June 30. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
    Jeff Eakins, the current superintendent, is retiring, effective June 30.
  3. Hillsborough county parents can check the district's website for their child's bus route and their school's bus schedule. Visit sdhc.k12.fl.us, click the link under "Preparing for Back to School," then find the links for "Bus Schedule" and "Bus Availability." For more information, call (813) 982-5500. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
    Our running list of the candidates to replace superintendent Jeff Eakins includes top educators with a wide range of experience.
  4. A vigil at Pine Trails Park in Parkland for victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Some schools have already closed for the holidays, but everyone should be off by the end of the day Dec. 20. [Times (2015)]
    Some schools are closing for the holidays this week; others won’t be done for a few days. Then it’s lights out until early January.
  6. Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, presents his bill on civics education to the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Dec. 11, 2019. The legislation received unanimous bipartisan support. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport,’ sponsor Rep. Ben Diamond reminds colleagues.
  7. This Sept. 12, 2019 file photo shows a University of Tennessee shirt in Knoxville, Tenn., using the design of a Florida fourth-grader who was bullied.  Sales of the T-shirt have raised over $950,000 for an anti-bullying organization. Tennessee officials said Wednesday that 112,715 shirts have been sold in the three months since it was created. (AP Photo/Steve Megargee, File) [STEVE MEGARGEE  |  AP]
    Tennessee officials said Wednesday that 112,715 shirts have been sold in the past three months.
  8. Haley Manigold, second from left, and Armwood High School classmates Maria Medina and Madison Harvey take a photo with Sen. Tom Lee, who is sponsoring their legislation, and teacher Tony Pirotta.  They presented their bill in the Senate Education Committee on Dec. 9, 2019. [EMILY L. MAHONEY  |  Times Staff]
    Armwood High senior Haley Manigold discusses her effort to convince lawmakers to adopt testing legislation.
  9. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
DL Tre'von Riggins (98) on the field during spring football practice at Lakewood High School in in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, April 30, 2019.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
    The School Board will consider a $2.2 million package at its Dec. 17 meeting.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement