In light of recent events concerning the school board’s failure to fulfill their promise to give teacher’s raises, teachers have resulted to demonstrations.
All across the county teachers are performing demonstrations to express their dissatisfaction with the school board. On Nov. 14, teachers gathered outside of the Hillsborough School Board meeting downtown to protest for their raises. They stood outside holding signs expressing their anger at the situation and at the Board.
As outlined in their contracts, teachers are prohibited from striking against their employer, the county, but this does hinder their ability and rights to protest and demonstrate against the unfairness they have experienced.
From Nov. 27 to Dec. 2, Hillsborough county teachers protested the difficult circumstances by showing how much extra work they put in for their students, classrooms, and schools. Teachers only worked the required amount of hours outlined in their contracts, the same contracts that the school board is currently violating. They went into school at their required time and they left school as soon as they could. For public high schools in the district this means working from 7:15 p.m. to 3:15 a.m. Teachers refused to do grading outside of school which for many meant that not much grading was accomplished. These measures were not meant to hurt the students but to show the Board that this situation is serious and that they should be rewarded for their hard work.
The grade-in, a peaceful form of protest, began on Saturday, Nov. 18 and has continued with a few teachers from across the county gathered in the mall food courts of malls across the county to grade papers together. All teachers were invited to participate. For them, this is a public display of all the extra effort they put into teaching. This is meant not only for the Board to see but also the public. Teachers gathered in the morning and stayed as long as they felt necessary and graded papers as a community.
“The grade-in was a time for teachers to show their camaraderie and that we are sticking together to protest the school board not giving the raises. It was to show everybody that we do all this all the time outside of the classroom,” said Kathleen Syron, an AP Literature teacher.
Many Steinbrenner teachers have participated in these protests as well. The walk-in on Oct. 30 at Steinbrenner showed teacher support for each other and for their cause. Teachers at Steinbrenner also participated in both the grade-in at Citrus Park Mall and the week that teachers only worked their contracted hours.
Teachers across Hillsborough have used these county-wide counter-demonstrations to prove not only to those they service but also to their employers that they work hard for their students and parents and they should be rewarded fairly for their work. Teachers believe their protests are effective and allow for their voices to be heard.
“I think the fact that it made the news and people would take pictures and post them on Facebook and other internet sites [is what made it effective]. They were getting reactions and it was just friends and relatives telling us they supported us,” said Syron.
Many teachers have also gone directly to the school board to express their feelings with the school board. At the school board meeting that took place on December 5, Jason Levy, a social studies teacher at Steinbrenner, ardently conveyed his anger toward the board as he stood up and spoke.
“My fellow teachers, my brothers and sisters, I’m proud of you. You are feeling oppressed and you are taking a stand,” said Levy.
Several teachers have used this method to assert their dissent with the county over the raise fallout.
At the time of publication, the school board had countered with a one-time $92 pay increase as opposed to the $4000 raise the teachers were seeking.
Lauren Johnston // Backpage Editor