Hillsborough teachers protest over pay raises outside school board meeting

By Laurie Davison, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017, 10:05 PM EST

Hundreds of Hillsborough County teachers and their supporters packed Tuesday night's school board meeting, calling the district's salary counteroffer an "insult."

Teachers who were expecting a $4,000 a year raise are now being told that a one-time bonus may be the best the district can do, a bonus critics claim would only amount to $92.

First grade teacher Cheryl Silva said the situation is making teachers feel "undervalued."

"People do not realize what we do behind the scenes," Silva said. "People think, "Oh, you work 10 months. Oh, you have all this time off," but what they don't see is us at home grading papers, they don't see us staying after school until 5 o'clock."

Protesters stood outside the meeting, pushing up against the glass windows of the boardroom, chanting "Vote them out" and "We want respect."

Inside, the school board meeting was conducted as normal. About 30 teachers took to the podium to speak during time set aside for employee comments.

They told the superintendent and board members that they don't have enough money for basic necessities.

"When the incredibly insulting amount of a one-time 'bonus' of $92 was discussed yesterday, I just have one question: 'How did any of you fall asleep last night?" said one woman who spoke.

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Students joined in the protest.

"It definitely concerns me, because not only are they affected, but we're directly affected as well," said high school junior Graham Shelor. "Without a pay raise, their performance decreases, the supplies are limited."

Last week, some teachers said they would only "work the contract" now, refusing to grade papers or answer emails after hours.

The next possible step could be to bring in a mediator to act as a go-between between the teacher's union and school district.

School board members also talked about the possibility of looking into setting up an outside finance committee to look at the district's budget.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins has stated in the past that the budget is leaner because of Hurricane Irma, an influx of students from Puerto Rico and state budget cuts.