I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Short Email, Long Response (PNJ Salary Negotiation Article Fallout)

>>> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 01/06/10 8:22 AM >>>
Good Morning Board Members and Superintendent,

After learning about the article in this morning's paper, I thought I'd email you to give you some feedback about our salary negotiations. I understand you want to attract new teachers to this profession, but to suggest that those who've been loyal to you for 15 + years would take a pay cut is beyond insulting. You tell us you appreciate all we do, but when you suggest a pay cut to those of us who've consistently worked hard to successfully prepare our children for their future, you communicate a totally different message to us. I teach XXX grade, which includes a great deal of FCAT preparation. I know of not one principal who would put a brand new, inexperienced teacher in XXX grade because of the importance of the curriculum being done right. So, with that being said, why would you want to pay me less to work on a grade level with so much pressure that demands my experience? My experience and ability should never be overlooked! So, is it worth putting all your money towards raising new teachers' salaries only to push out veteran teachers? I don't think so because you risk losing highly qualified teachers. Plus, you'd attrack new teachers only to lose them once they hit 15 years experience.

It's only fair to try to give equal raises across the board. I realize this is expensive and may have to be done over a several year period. However, expecting any group of teachers to take a pay cut is unacceptable. After all, would you be willing to take a pay cut yourself??



National Board Certified Teacher

My Response:


Thanks for sending this. Get ready for a long, thorough response.

I'll answer your last question first--yes we as a board are willing and yes we as a board did take a pay cut (12%) as of June 30,2009--the largest pay cut of any school board in the state of Florida. Please feel free to fact check this.

I have also routinely called for substantial cuts and wage freezes to protect programs for kids--yeah, I did that. I advocated cutting many administrative positions one year before we actually did it because it was the right thing to do--yeah, I did that. I called for not spending money on frivolous items like free newspapers for some households at a cost of $50K--check, yeah I did that. I called for and continue to call for closing underutilized facilities to save taxpayer money--check, yeah I have and continue to advocate for this.

As you can imagine, I was laughed at for even suggesting some of these things; I'm not popular with the union, SOME administrators, and SOME teachers, but I don't care. I'm truly here for the kids and the taxpayers our boss-- and kids are the top priority--not me, not the board, not the superintendent, not administrators, not bus drivers, not the union---kids are #1.

I'll also point out that we, as a board, take no local travel mileage, pay for our own cell phones, and work 12 months, not 10.

For a five member board, our yearly travel budget is $800 per person--$4000 total. I pay my own travel to professional development events I want to attend, including last years board member conference in San Diego--and I'll be paying my own way to Chicago for a board member conference in April.

I'm not complaining, XXXXXXX. I want to make that clear--I actually feel quite fortunate. I was asked by the former Superintendent to serve, I was duly elected by my district and I feel honored to serve the students and taxpayers of this community. I love this job, I am seeking re-election, and and I take satisfaction in the fact that our district is improving and we are making a difference in the lives of kids in our community. That is what I like. I would more than likely do this work even if the stipend was pulled all together- but currently our salaries (as I'm sure you realize) are fixed by the legislature (by a formula that takes district size into account), as are the salaries of most elected constitutional officers in the state.

As a board member, XXXXXXXXXX, I am not here for the paycheck--- but I understand that for many, pay is of paramount importance. This sad, bittersweet scenario is exacerbated by the current gloomy economic environment and I understand this full-well.

You see, XXXXXXXXX, I did not think we would be able to give any raises this year, in the midst of this record economic downturn. I was delighted when the superintendent and budget chief said we could afford and recommended we give a modest increase to all teachers. Other industries are dying if not dead. Companies are closing, small businesses are suffering, other states are furloughing employees weekly, and we are headed toward a double dip recession----- but in Escambia County Florida we are attempting to give a modest raise to our employees----and amazingly we are being told NO by our friends in the Union.

Florida attempted to give Merit Pay and was told NO by our friends in the union.

I have advocated for higher differential pay at some struggling schools and have been told the union would "not go" for this.

I have advocated for more meaningful evaluations for teachers so that the best ones can be compensated and the non performers can be weeded out--but the union says "NO FAIR."

I am pushing to pursue President Barack Obama's "Race to the Top" grant for Florida--which would result in up to $700Million for Florida schools, but guess what group is trying to kill this effort statewide, XXXXXXX? Our friends in the organized teacher's union.

So when I read the article in this week's PNJ outlining the unions' loud objections to our modest increase proposal, I must admit that I was not shocked.

To the question of the newspaper's account of what we were offering---We did not envision a situation where journeyman teachers would be making less this year than last, and yes, I would find that situation unacceptable as do you. I believe this may be inaccurate and I will look into this. It was and continues to be my understanding that we were attempting to give higher percentage increases to those near the front of the salary schedule to attract more talented youth to the profession--as many districts are doing and as many top policy makers are advocating.

Education in America is changing, and funding sources are drying up, XXXXXXXXX. One of the things that is most important to me is to treat Employees with dignity, professionalism and fairness. Teachers are the most important district component in a student’s success—and I value great teachers. I want to work to increase the pay for all employees just as soon as it is economically viable.

In the mean time, ABC News reported last night that 85,000 Americans lost their jobs in December, and there are 15 Million Americans currently out of work. I would assume that many of these Americans would be thankful to even have a job, let alone a raise. We all should be mindful of this.

This is the stark reality of life in America today. Lets keep working together collaboratively to do the best we can to get through these difficult times and come out stronger on the other side.

With Best Regards,

Jeff Bergosh

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1

No comments: