Board could raise its salary

Though facing a budget shortfall, School Board members may increase their own pay by $1,572.

Published November 23, 2005

TAMPA - With little discussion, Hillsborough County School Board members took the first step toward handing themselves a $1,572 raise for the coming year - three times their pay hike last year.

The increase would bring their salaries to $39,520. By contrast, a beginning teacher in Hillsborough makes $32,005 - about $7,500 less than the proposed wages for board members.

The 4 percent increase mirrors the raises for teachers this year. Hillsborough educators received minimum 4 percent raises, plus another 1 percent to teach five minutes extra each day, according to Jean Clements, president of the county's teachers union.

But School Board members didn't take the time to note the comparison to teachers when announcing their proposed raise at a meeting Tuesday night. They briefly noted that the state requires them to set salaries, and that growth is a factor when calculating the amount.

Raising their pay is a two-step process. Tuesday, board members set the limit on the salary hike and scheduled it for a formal vote on Dec. 13.

"I don't think there will be any more discussion," said Carolyn Bricklemyer, commenting on the raise. She was picked Tuesday as the board's chairwoman, after a three-hour meeting with a relatively light agenda.

State lawmakers require school boards to adopt their own salaries at public meetings, a task that many consider a political whipping post. The salary figure was recommended by the Florida School Boards Association and is based on a formula similar to one used to set the pay for other public officials.

Politically, the move to raise board members' pay comes at a difficult time, as the district is grappling with some tough fiscal choices. Tuesday's agenda item on School Board raises followed a discussion about drastic solutions to school crowding.

Year-round classes, double sessions and sweeping changes to attendance boundaries are among the options being considered. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said the district would report back to the board with recommendations in six to eight weeks.

School Board member Candy Olson cautioned that the district needed to study the options carefully before presenting alarming news to the community.

"When we go to some of the schools and say we're cgoing to move your boundaries, or we're going to have a zero period in the morning and an eighth period in the afternoon, the emotions kick in," she said.

Hillsborough faces a $364-million shortfall in funds needed to build classrooms in the next five years. The board is considering whether to ask voters for a half-cent sales tax to pay for new schools. Board members have urged the county to raise the $196-per-home school impact fee on new construction, the lowest among Florida counties with this one-time development expense.

Hillsborough gains an average of 5,000 students each year. With 186,000 students, the county is the nation's ninth-largest school district. About one-fourth of Hillsborough's 201 schools are at or above capacity.

The problem isn't helped by new state limits on class sizes, members said. They might join a Florida School Boards Association lawsuit over co-teaching, or placing multiple instructors in crowded classrooms. The state doesn't want to let districts use the practice to comply with class size requirements.

For now, they opted to wait to see whether negotiations progress.

In other business:

The School Board's new leader, Bricklemyer, moved into the chairwoman's post during an annual reorganization of the seven-member body. Jack Lamb is the board's vice chairman.

School Board members said they want to add accountability and openness to the process by which they select attorneys. They took no formal action on achieving this goal.

Board members named Tanly Cabrera as principal at Cahoon Elementary Magnet School, which will serve gifted students and those interested in animal sciences beginning in the fall. Cabrera currently is principal at Cahoon Elementary.

Also, Faychone Durant, principal at Young Middle Magnet School, will become an administrator on special assignment for elementary education.

Letitia Stein can be reached at 813 661-2443 or lstein@sptimes.com