Lee County School Board unanimously approves controversial teacher contracts

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Lee County School Board has unanimously approved a new, controversial teacher contract despite strong opposition. More than a dozen teachers spoke out against the new contracts at Tuesday’s meeting.

One of their biggest concerns, is the new pay scale. New teachers would now make almost as much as veteran teachers at $40,000 a year and in some cases could be making more. Experienced teachers like Dr. Delores Holland Ph.D., a North Fort Myers High School teacher now question the districts motives.

“[They] say you want to keep teachers but you’re putting money into teachers that have a high turnover rate,” said Dr. Holland. “Why not put some money into the teachers that have been here and are doing well.”

Opponents of the new contract also say they don’t get enough planning time. Estero High School Teacher Pam Baker says in the end it’s the students that suffer and other teachers agree.

“We have experienced teachers leaving by the loads and when that happens we have brand new teachers coming in. We have substitute teachers in those classrooms,” said Baker. “We have career changers who don’t have the background in education teaching our children and that’s kind of damaging for the kids.”

“Five to eight minutes it takes me to grade one essay. So how do you expect me to take 160 kids and grade their essays in 84 minutes,” said Dr. Holland.

Experienced teachers say the new contract is good for beginning teachers but a slap in the face to educators who have put in years of hard work.

“The older teachers are not getting recognized for the work that they done,” said Dr. Holland. “We work just as many hours as the younger teachers, if not more becauseĀ  guess who’s going to be coaching those younger teachers free of pay.”

The school board acknowledged the contract isn’t ideal but say it was the best they could do for now. The teachers say though they’re disappointed they love their jobs and want people to know this is about more than just the money.

“Being a teacher is kind of a thankless job at times. We spend a lot of time and we didn’t go into this for the money. We went into this because of a love of children and because it’s kind of a calling,” said Baker. “Remember, somewhere along the way you have a teacher to thank for something that you were able to do that you didn’t think you were able to do. There’s a teacher behind it. Whether it was a teacher in school, or a counselor, or a coach. There’s a teacher somewhere that helped you get to where you’re at and we need to make sure that we’re recognizing teachers and respecting teachers.”

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