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Schools

Teacher pay to stay on top

The School Board okays a package that will keep county teachers the area's best paid.

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published October 31, 2007


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The Pinellas School Board on Tuesday took a two-pronged approach to ensure that the district's teachers will continue to be the best-paid in the Tampa Bay area.

First, board members approved a recommendation to use the Jan. 29 ballot for a referendum that could renew a special school tax to enhance teacher salaries.

Next, they unanimously approved an agreement that will raise the salary of beginning teachers to $37,300, slightly more than their counterparts in Hillsborough County. Experienced teachers with master's degrees and at least 27 years' experience will make $62,050.

The two measures work hand in hand, said Ron Stone, an associate superintendent in charge of human resources.

"The referendum gives every teacher a $3,529 supplement as part of their salary," Stone said. "But it's important to continue raising salaries through the collective bargaining process because the referendum money isn't guaranteed."

Originally approved by voters in 2004, the tax of 50 cents on every $1,000 of assessed property value expires after the 2008-09 fiscal year. Eighty percent of the proceeds, which generate an average of about $36-million a year, go toward teacher salaries.

The rest is used for art, music and reading programs and to improve classroom technology.

Beth Rawlins, a political consultant and chairwoman of Citizens for Pinellas Schools, asked the district in September to consider placing the measure on the January ballot with the presidential preference primary rather than waiting for the November 2008 general election ballot.

The request came after a poll of 400 potential voters showed strong support for the special tax. While nearly 60 percent of those polled said their property taxes were too high, 66 percent said they favored renewing the tax for another four years.

The proceeds of the tax have resulted in an average $10,000 increase for teachers over the past three years, said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

"The extra money is definitely helping to attract and retain teachers," Black said. "The money is going exactly where we said it would go."

But Black also praised a district bargaining committee made up of administrators, union leaders and other employees that tentatively approved a settlement earlier this month to raise teacher salaries an average of 4.85 percent. Other district employees - including school principals, bus drivers and plant operators - will get a 4 percent raise under the plan.

The pay package came late this year as the district waited for word from the state on how much would have to be cut from this year's budget.

"Our teachers are long overdue," Black said.

School Board member Janet Clark said after Tuesday's meeting that some teachers had become frustrated that the process was taking so long.

"Most people understand when they don't get a huge raise," Clark said. "But it's a morale boost just to get a little."

Donna Winchester can be reached at winchester@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8413.

School district salary increases

Salary adjustments ratified Tuesday by the Pinellas County School Board will mean a minimum increase of 4.85 percent for teachers and an average increase of 4 percent for noninstructional employees, including administrators, support professionals and technical staff members.

Position 2006-07 2007-08 High school principal $77,530 $79,971 Experienced teacher* $59,000 $61,050 Midcareer teacher** $39,820 $41,440 Beginning teacher $36,000 $37,300 School secretary III $12.10/hour $12.50/hour PE assistant $11/hour $11.36/hour Plant operator $9.09/hour $9.39/hour Cafeteria worker $9.09/hour $9.39/hour

* 24-26 years with master's degree (210 positions)

** 10 years with bachelor's degree (155 positions)

Source: Pinellas County School District

[Last modified October 31, 2007, 01:01:29]


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