Lee County school board plans to approve teacher salary increase

Teachers in Lee County turned out to demand more money. And it worked — almost. Teachers told WINK News they are struggling to support their families. Some are even living with roommates to get by and still digging up dollars to pay for school supplies on their own, but they said a decision made by the school district was a small step in the right direction.

The Lee County School Board made a bargain with the gathered teachers to approve a plan to increase teacher salaries Thursday.

“I spend all my free hours with somebody else’s children and not always my own to make sure they have a better life,” said Todd Dusenberry, a high school teacher.

Dusenberry is a life skills teacher at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers. He averages 70 hours a week, but he doesn’t get paid overtime.

“When gas goes up, and rent goes up, and utilities go up, our pay does not go up,” Dusenberry said.

So Dusenberry and other Lee County teachers are fed up, as they gathered together wearing red clothing. They filled seats at a meeting Thursday night for better pay.

“We’ve gone for many years without any significant raises,” Dusenberry said. “It’s important to show my students and my family that I’m going to stand up for something that I believe in.”

The bargain laid out would be up to a six-percent increase to a teacher’s salary over two years based on individual performance.

Teachers who were happy with the step forward said it’s still not enough.

“They’re right” said Dr. Angela Pruitt, chief negotiator. “They’re not paid what they should be. But the district only has so much that they can do. We have been giving teachers on an average a 3 percent raise for the last three years, yet we’ve only received from the state a one-percent increase.”

The next step is for the 6,000 teachers in the district to vote. And if the two-year plan is voted on favorably, it heads to the school board for a final decision.

“We appreciate that the school board doesn’t have money,” said Susan Delago, a high school teacher. “We know they don’t. But at this point, we don’t care just because we’re so desperate to be able to stay here and to stay in our jobs.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
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