Originally published May 5, 2012 at 11:18a.m., updated May 5, 2012 at 01:57p.m.
Teacher and support-staff unions met at the state Capitol this morning to protest the Pulaski County Special School District's recent actions regarding budget cuts and union recognition.
The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff lost their 2010-2015 contracts in April after Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell directed Jerry Guess, PCSSD superintendent, to withdraw recognition of the unions and cut $11 million from its 2013 budget.
"I've had to comfort colleagues who don't know how they are going to make their car payments," Robert Austin, a teacher at Mills High School, said. "But Dr. Guess' salary would pay for four of me, and I just don't understand how he at a thousand dollars a day is doing more benefit for more students than I am. In my opinion, it is time to write the president because the president can end this with one phone call."
Some of the protesters wore bandages to represent "the injury" from the cuts, Austin, who had one on under his eye, said.
The cuts include eliminating severance pay to teachers who retire and reducing the teacher work year by two days, among other things.The orders came after the unions and the district were unable to agree on budget cut measures.
"It's very very important for you as a tax payer to know whether your child has eaten at school or not,"Emry Chesterfield, president of the support staff, said. The situation is "very important when a superintendent who is making $261,000 a year plus benefits and he says if you don't have any money you cannot eat lunch."
The district was classified as being in fiscal distress May 16, 2011.The state took control over the district in June, and subsequently, the school board and the superintendent were dismissed. Kimbrell appointed Guess to the superintendent position last July. Kimbrell now serves in place of the district's school board.