Another impasse for St. Lucie County school board and employees

Teachers were lined up at Fort Pierce Central high School, holding signs, and for a brief moment, chanting "We love kids, we want a raise." But after hours of sitting inside the auditorium, many left, still without a resolution.

St. Lucie County school district staff once again packed out the meeting venue, in a teacher union's third negotiation session held at Fort Pierce Central High School. The auditorium had a seating capacity of 640, and the overflow crowd stood outside.

Christine Hill, Chief Negotiator for the Classroom Teacher's Association, made a request for decorum, after last week's uproar forced a reschedule.

Instead of chants, teachers showed approval by silently raising hands and fluttering fingers, and rare bouts of applause.

Robin Hannah, a teacher at Manatee Academy, said she supports the Classroom Teachers Association's requests of pay increases for employees.

She left the corporate world, took a huge pay cut, to follow her dream of being a teacher.

"I just feel as though my heart is in teaching, but I don't feel as if the district's heart is in the teachers," said Hannah. "I don't want to leave teaching, but it's almost gonna make me. My heart is in it for the kids, but the FP&L bill, the mortgage note, they don't care about my heart, they care about the money."

Susan Ranew, Assistant Superintendent, said she is disappointed that the CTA's counter-proposal, seeking a 5% salary increase and pay raises according to experience, is more than double their original proposal.

She said at the end of the next school year, the district is already looking at a $17 million dollar budget deficit.

"We've had a very transparent budget process, and they know that's just an un-doable proposal that was provided to us," said Ranew.

CTA Chief Negotiator Christine Hill said the proposal is reasonable.

"It's doable, if they would get the funds that we've been asking them to look for, and they aren't willing to do that," Hill said.

The CTA says they will submit another written counter-proposal by the end of this week.

That could lead to another meeting, a fourth one, with the school board.

In the meantime, it is another impasse, and Hannah said the teachers are the ones who are suffering.

"I don't feel like the district is doing what they need to do to find the money elsewhere. Instead, we're just chopping from the teachers," she said.

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