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Letters to the Editors

Teachers don't have a chance

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002

Editor: As I watched the proceedings at the local School Board meeting Tuesday night, I finally realized why our district's financial and philosophical agendas are so distorted. I also realized why our teachers are never going to have pay increases that will give them the wages that reflect the level of duty they offer to Hernando's children.

First, Steve Galaydick, who is running against incumbent Robert Wiggins for the District 1 seat, asked if he could have a board information package without charge. Despite the temerity of asking for something for free, I thought Mr. Galaydick explained himself admirably in pointing out that it would be a "professional courtesy" and also that it was public information he was asking for.

However, the district's attorney, Karen Gaffney, piously asserted that the School Board was not going to violate policy by giving Mr. Galaydick an info package and that he would have to pay for his information. Okay, a little autocratic on Ms. Gaffney's part, but that's life in a bureaucracy.

However, minutes later the board allowed a vendor to contravene district policy by allowing them to withdraw a bid without penalties. With that one blatant act I realized the board is playing with a two-headed coin.

Second, teachers are never going to be able to gain better salaries from the district while the teachers union is so unorganized. The union's latest tactic of trying to hold the district accountable by offering to work only to contract specifications smacks of desperation. Despite the sincerity of the union's representatives, it should be noted they do not have the labor relations experience to bring their negotiations to a fruitful conclusion. Why doesn't the union start some kind of fund that would allow them to hire an attorney who specializes in these kinds of tenuous labor negotiations?

Board member Jim Malcolm has greeted the pleas of our cash-strapped teachers by asserting they are playing a game he is no longer going to participate in. Is that a statement of resignation? I hope so.

After all, if he perceives the decline in our education standards because of underfunded teaching staff as a game, then he needs to quit his career School Board tenure and go into the private sector, where he would no doubt find such dismissive rhetoric is less well received.

Nobody in the district wants to find any money to pay the teachers. After all of the flak from the missing millions, I am not sure I would be motivated to find money from accounting discrepancies. But altruism is a facet of public duty, and although undue at times, scrutiny is part of the job.

Furthermore, I am amazed that no issue has been made of the School Board giving 10 percent -- almost double what the teachers are being offered -- salary raises to members of Hernando's support staff.

Salary awards like these are untenable behavior that can only disrupt the already strained relationships between administration and teaching faculties.

Malcolm has already talked about cutting staff to accommodate the teachers' demands. I wonder if those cuts would come from the new high school? I doubt it.

In short, our teachers need help. The district needs help. There needs to be new ideological inertia to replace that spent on the School Board.

The television show Survivor started last week and the one analogy I would draw from it is that the best way to get what you want is to break up comfortable alliances. If you don't, then you will find yourself in the minority being ganged up on until you are dismissed.
-- Jim Webb, Spring Hill

No wonder district is in trouble

Editor: Re: Teachers vow not to go the extra yard, Sept. 19 Times:

As an ex-teacher, I wish to comment on the article by staff writer Jeffrey Solochek:

If Hernando County teachers feel this way, the cause of problems with the education system is obvious.
-- Billie Novak, Spring Hill

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