Gunn High School English teacher Mark Igler held up two monthly pay stubs — one from June 2011 and another from last month. The November 2012 stub was for $427 less than the one from 18 months earlier.
"I've made $5,200 less over the last 18 months," Igler said. "That's a lot of money — a big hit.
"I love my job and I'm not going anywhere, but $5,200 is $5,200 — and this is for inferior health care coverage than I had two-and-a-half years ago."
Other teachers told similar stories.
Several referred to last Friday's school shootings in Connecticut and noted it felt particularly awkward to be asking for a raise at such a time but said it is a "desperate situation" for many teachers.
"I greeted my students at the door Monday morning ... grateful that they're all safe, healthy and well-protected from news of recent events," Hoover Elementary School kindergarten teacher Corey Potter said.
"It seems selfish or inappropriate to talk about a raise right now ... but we've planned this for a long time, and many teachers desperately need it."
Potter, whose rent recently went up by $100, told of colleagues who drive long distances to get to school by 6 a.m.
"We love our jobs and feel fortunate to work for a district in which we have all the supplies we need, ample professional development opportunities and paraprofessionals in our classrooms each day," Potter said.
"This is as it should be: students first. But many of us have had to take on extra jobs."
Palo Alto's two school employees' unions, the Palo Alto Educators Association for teachers and the California School Employees Association, representing non-teaching staff, will vote on the tentative 2011-12 agreement after the first of the year.
If the unions ratify it, the Board of Education will officially vote on it Jan. 15.
Negotiations on a 2012-13 contract are continuing, said Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin, a kindergarten teacher at Addison Elementary School.
All five school board members said they intend to vote for the 1 percent bonus.
"I want to acknowledge the candor and the grace of your comments, and I hope nobody felt uncomfortable," board member Barb Mitchell said.
"You're the least selfish group of people I could possibly name, and I also appreciate your recognition of the families in Connecticut.
"We have a common sense that we may be seeing some light at the end of the (financial) tunnel. We want to be cautious but do recognize the importance of employee compensation, and of listening to all the people who made it possible these past few years to have the fiscal health that many districts don't enjoy," Mitchell said.
In other business Tuesday, the board elected Dana Tom as its president and Mitchell as its vice-president for 2013, and presented a gift from the Palo Alto High School glass-blowing program to outgoing president Camille Townsend.
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