Teachers picket for higher wages

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SARASOTA – Hundreds lined the blocks in front of Sarasota County School’s Administrative Offices to ask for raises for teachers, aides, and support staff.

Cathy Hollar loves her job, teaching 6th grade Math at Pine View.

“Seeing that light bulb turn on with a student when they get it, and you know they’ve got it, it’s exciting,” Hollar said.

She’s protesting so her and other teachers can continue to do their jobs while keeping up with the cost of living.

“Sarasota County is a beautiful place to live but it’s an expensive place to live,” Hollar said. “And we’re professionals and we think we deserve a decent raise, and after all the administration got their raise it’s our turn.”

Protesters say raises for teachers will result in better classrooms for students.

“When you have a brain surgeon do you want the best or someone who’s just OK,” Michael Mocherman said. “You’ve got to pay them. If you want good teachers you’ve got to pay them.”

“It gives us a morale boost, because we’re feeling very low,” Nereida Walsh said. “Like we’re not appreciated, so pay would be very much appreciated because we work very hard, and our children need us.”

President of the Sarasota Classified Teacher Association Patricia Gardener says the raises are necessary to prevent more problems down the road.

“Right now we’re at the beginning of a teacher shortage,” Gardener said. “And you not only need to hire wages to recruit, but you need higher wages to retain. So, if you can’t retain our teachers, they’re going to go to other states which they’re doing. They’re going to go to other counties, which they’re doing. They’re going to go somewhere else.”

Acting Director of Communication for Sarasota County Schools Joe Binswanger says the district looks forward to restarting negotiations.

“Well the district is hopeful that negotiations can start again soon,” Binswanger said. “The district and the union is only a half a percent apart. So it’s disappointing that negotiations have stalled when the two sides are so close.”

Both the district and the union wanted a contract negotiated by winter break.

Should the two sides not reach an agreement, the District or the Union can declare an impasse. At that point, the two sides can either opt to hire a mediator or the negotiations would go to a special magistrate.

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