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Summer is no vacation for teachers

That's what summer is for many area teachers, who dive into second jobs to bolster their income or to get paid while on break.

By DONNA WINCHESTER
Published June 10, 2006


photo
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
Charles "Cote" Reynolds, a substitute teacher, mows around the playground at Sexton Elementary School. Reynolds is working as a groundskeeper for Pinellas County schools this summer.

[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Jiim Traun, 41, a teacher at Lopez Elementary in Seffner, begins work at his second job as a self-employed sailboat maintenance technician Thursday at the Davis Islands Yacht Club.

Jim Traun would rather be sailing than scrubbing barnacles off boat bottoms at the Davis Islands Yacht Club.

But the 41-year-old teacher has a mortgage and four children to support. So like many Tampa Bay area educators, Traun is spending the weeks between the end of May and the beginning of August at his summer job.

He doesn't mind the work, which he needs to supplement his $42,000 salary as a physical education teacher at Lopez Elementary in east Hillsborough. What bothers him, he says, is people who say teachers have it easy because they get summers off.

"Our last paycheck was two weeks ago," said Traun, who has a master's degree in adaptive physical education. "To make ends meet, we have to do other things."

Hillsborough and Pinellas school officials don't keep track of how many teachers work during the summer. But second jobs are a fact of life for many, they say.

"It's a natural concern with 10-month employees," said Pinellas schools spokesman Ron Stone.

He said some teachers choose to spread their pay over 12 months - which means getting less in each paycheck - so they can continue to get paid during the summer. But a lot of them take jobs to bolster their income, Stone said.

This summer, about 150 Pinellas teachers found work at an extended-year summer program for special-education students. Another 60 took voluntary pre-K jobs. About 250 are working at driver's education and summer reading camps.

Some have less traditional summer jobs. Charles "Cote" Reynolds, a long-term substitute teacher, took a position with the district's maintenance department.

Every day for the past two weeks, Reynolds, 39, has met a landscape crew at 6:30 a.m. So far, he has mowed lawns and whacked weeds at several schools, including Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg, one of the places he taught last year.

"This is hard work," said Reynolds, who hopes to someday get a full-time teaching job. "It's not like cutting your own grass. This is cutting acres of grass."

The school district has been offering teachers such jobs for years, said Dan Smith, the director of maintenance for Pinellas schools. This year, there were seven openings for lawn work.

"It was basically first come, first served," Smith said. "But they weren't knocking the door down."

Reynolds said he would have preferred a job working with children. But when he starts resenting the low pay - $8.75 an hour - he tells himself things could be worse.

"I'm still working for the school system," he said. "In a roundabout way, I'm still helping kids."

Kathleen Prince also wishes she was working with children. But for nearly every summer of her 22-year career, Prince, a reading teacher at Riviera Middle School in St. Petersburg, has taken jobs outside her field. For the past four years, she has waited on customers at a local florist shop for $8 an hour.

"I take a deep breath in May and I don't exhale until we get our first paycheck when school starts again," said Prince, 54. "Your responsibilities don't end just because you're not teaching."

While some teachers work in the summer because they want to keep busy, most do it because they need the money, said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association

"They start at $32,000, and most of them are spending all that in the 10 months they're working," Clements said. "Summer comes and they're strapped, so they go back to the types of work they did when they were in college."

Raising teacher pay to meet the national average would help the situation, Clements said. State education officials, however, say averages are often misleading.

The average teacher pay in Pinellas is $41,092. In Hillsborough, it's $38,944. Teachers in both districts also get more than $12,000 annually in benefits, including health insurance and retirement benefits.

If benefits, taxes and cost of living were included in salary comparisons, Florida's average teacher pay would appear much more generous, state Education Commissioner John Winn said recently.

Many educators, especially new teachers like Joe Goes, aren't interested in appearances.

Goes, 29, made $32,000 last year as a beginning teacher in Polk County. This year, he'll get a 5 percent bump for transferring to Potter Elementary, a high-poverty school in Hillsborough.

The raise will help, Goes said, but not enough.

To make ends meet, he started a business painting wall murals. He made some fliers and pedaled his bike around his Lutz neighborhood trying to get clients.

So far, he's been doing handyman work.

"I get angry about it, but it's one of those things you have to try to stay positive about," said Goes, who isn't sure he'll stay in teaching. "I can sit around and complain, or I can do something about it."

For now, Goes said, he'll have to take whatever extra work comes his way.

Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 10, 2006, 05:59:18]


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