POLITICAL COLUMNIST Buddy Nevins
Teacher scrapes by as the man gets more for less
Published December 14, 2002
Derek Coniglio knows how hard it is to be a teacher.
In charge of a fifth-grade class at Gator Run
Elementary in Weston, Coniglio says he is barely
making it. He is now looking for an after-school job
stocking shelves at Publix just to pay his bills.
"We are not spendthrifts. We are not trying to be
fancy. We are just trying to be middle class," says
Coniglio, whose wife Gina also teaches at Gator Run.
The couple each got a raise this year. The increase
was more than eaten up by health insurance costs that
almost doubled and an additional $500 a month in child
So Coniglio can't understand why the School Board is
so anxious to give Superintendent Frank Till a huge
raise right after they gave Till the worst evaluation
in his career, a C score in September.
After that dubious result, board members now are
offering Till a raise of more than 14 percent.
Teachers like Coniglio got an average 5.5 percent pay
hike. Till has won praise since his evaluation by
agreeing to hire a chief operating officer to take
over the daily operations of the school system. The
new officer will be handling construction,personnel,
technology, maintenance and purchasing.
By agreeing to have somebody else do much of his job,
Till gets a big raise. Only at the School Board.
And here's the lesson the School Board is sending the
community and teachers: Do less to earn more.
Teachers like Coniglio don't want to work less. They
do want a wage and working conditions that will let
them live in dignity.
But what about the Broward Teachers Union? Coniglio is
vocal about what he calls the union's lack of help.
Maybe that's because, like Till, who currently earns
$175,000 before his raise, union bosses have little in
common with teachers when it comes to salary.
BTU president earns $100,000 and many members of his
top staff earn more than $80,000.
That's much more than both Coniglios, who earn around
Coniglio has traded in his two cars and the family
makes do with one van now. He cut out frills, dumping
his beeper, his cell phone and all the premium cable
stations. He has refinanced his home.
"We still have problems," Coniglio says.
Coniglio knows how hard it is to be a teacher.
Do Till and the School Board?