Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

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.

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises 11/14/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 11:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

    Teachers

    LAND O'LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.

    Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, left, hold contract talks Nov. 9, with district negotiators. The sides are nearing an agreement.
  2. Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

    College

    TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.

  3. Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

    Business

    Some smaller retailers will tug at shoppers' heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.

    Some smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide. Keep St. Pete Local is an independent business alliance in St. Petersburg that has more than 600 members.
  4. Zimbabwe's incoming leader returns home to cheers

    World

    HARARE, Zimbabwe — Poised to become Zimbabwe's next president, a former confidant of ousted leader Robert Mugabe on Wednesday promised "a new, unfolding democracy" and reached out to the world, saying international help is needed to rebuild the shattered economy.

    Supporters of Zimbabwe’s president in waiting, Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile,” raise a stuffed reptile  in the air Wednesday as they await Mnangagwa’s arrival at the ZANU-PF party headquarters in Harare. He will be sworn in on Friday.
  5. Hernando deputies make arrest after finding body of dead woman Wednesday

    Crime

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff's deputies arrested a 32-year-old man Wednesday who they say killed a woman.