A workshop is expected in April for Pasco County School Board members to find out what it would take to pursue a ballot initiative aimed at increasing revenues to support increased salaries in the school district.
Pasco County School Board member Colleen Beaudoin asked for the workshop during the school board’s March 1 meeting. She told her colleagues she doesn’t see any way, under current conditions, to significantly improve salaries.
“I recognize that staff has tried to think creatively to increase funds to raise the pay of our teachers and our support staff,” Beaudoin said, adding that district pay has been a persistent concern for three years.
“Time has gone on and we still have the same issues. We are limited to the appropriated funds and it is clearly not enough to provide significant increases in salaries for our people.
“We have been making strides in raising the beginning teacher salary, but due to the limitations put on the funds by the state, we’re struggling to compensate our veteran teachers to make their salaries comparable to our neighboring districts.
“I believe we have come to the point where we must recognize that we have limited, unrestricted funds and must do something to increase pay.
“Pasco students deserve to have the best teachers and support.
“I requested information about referendums around the state from the Florida School Boards Association and I shared it with staff last week.
“I would like to ask the board and the superintendent to have a workshop in April to discuss a referendum for salaries,” Beaudoin said.
Board Vice Chairwoman Megan Harding concurred. “Yes, I would like that very much.”
Board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong had a more muted response: “It would be good to have it for informational purposes.”
Board member Alison Crumbley agreed.
Board member Allen Altman did not comment on Beaudoin’s request.
Harding asked if School Board Attorney Dennis Alfonso “could be prepared to address the timelines and legal issues” of “how to get something like this on the ballot.”
The attorney said he would be prepared.
Beaudoin added: “The sooner we address this, the better. Hopefully, we can meet in early April. I’m not sure it can be ready that fast, but I think we need to move quickly if we want to act.”
But first the workshop is needed, she said.
The move follows repeated requests by Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, who has appeared at recent board meetings urging the board to take action.
The union president made that request again, in his remarks earlier in the meeting.
At earlier meetings, Peace pleaded with the school board and staff to pursue a ballot initiative.
He pointed to high turnover, low morale and pay rates that are not competitive with nearby districts.
“At the Jan. 18 board meeting, I spoke about employees and their perceptions, as related to their jobs, their importance and their workloads.
“I spoke about changing the perceived culture of the workforce, so that we all show more respect, dignity and compassion for those folks — who for the past two years put themselves on the front lines of a medical crisis and made our students their No. 1 priority. Even at much personal sacrifice,” Peace said.
Just since January of this year, there have been 382 retirements or resignations — that’s almost 100 every two weeks, the union leader said.
Of those, 267 have been with the district from zero to five years, Peace said, characterizing that as “incredibly high” turnover.
He also pointed out that 52 of those leaving the district have worked there for 12 years or more, adding “and that trend seems to be going up.”
Peace told the board: “As I see it, we have a short-term goal, settling this year’s economics, and laying the groundwork for providing a secondary means for funding salaries and personnel: A ballot initiative. A referendum.
“I have asked for over three years for this board to act on a referendum, as a secondary funding source.
“This is something we have to get right, now. Because this is right for our employees and the time to act is short,” Peace said.
Published March 09, 2022