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SKEWED PRIORITIES?

FSCJ just gave a bunch of its administrators big raises. Its underpaid professors hope they’re next

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Last week, in a little-noticed public meeting, Florida State College at Jacksonville's 
 District Board of Trustees voted to award two dozen of the school's administrators more than $190,000 in raises — on average about $8,000 each.

School officials defend these raises as reflective of the increased workload these administrators have under new FSCJ president Cynthia Bioteau's leadership 
re-organization. (Bioteau's predecessor, FSCJ's longtime president Steve Wallace, departed in 2012 after the Times-Union reported that he charged more than $187,000 over two years to the college and its foundation for meals, travel and other expenses. The Board of Trustees nonetheless granted him a $1.2 million severance package that detractors called a golden parachute.)

Set as they are against the backdrop of FSCJ's ongoing contract negotiations with its faculty, not everyone's happy about the raises.

Karen Morian, FSCJ's faculty union president, says some of her fellow professors "were fairly upset" — not because they begrudged the administrators their money, but because even as the college takes care of its administration, its faculty members' salaries lag behind those of their counterparts at other state colleges.

A 2013 salary review from the National Education Association, the most recent data available, shows that FSCJ professors earn on average $48,000, compared to $51,000 at St. Johns River State College and $56,000 at Daytona State College. To make ends meet, faculty leaders say, many of their colleagues teach extra classes in addition to their mandatory course load.

Morian, a humanities professor, says it's important for FSCJ to increase faculty salaries because, otherwise, the college could lose talent to nearby schools that offer higher pay. She says the union doesn't have an exact increase in mind, but it would be fair to raise salaries to the state average.

"Right now I think we're about $6,000 short," Morian says.

Jason Gibson, a humanities professor and faculty senate president, also questions the pay hikes. He says he understands that the college is trying to bring administrative salaries up to the state average, but "what about the faculty who continue to be on the bottom statewide? Why would the college seek to raise administrative salaries first when the frontline employees — faculty and staff — are still on the bottom statewide? Is this really the priority of the District Board of Trustees? Clearly the college has the financial resources — and if not, then the priorities seem skewed."

Jill Johnson, FSCJ's communications director, points out that while faculty members have received raises every year since 2009, administrators did not in both the 2009-'10 or 2012-'13 school years. She says these raises were necessary because those receiving them had been given new positions in recent months, but were not given additional pay.

Indeed, many of the administrators whose salaries were boosted have new responsibilities and job titles — one accountant is now assistant comptroller, the vice president of purchasing and auxiliary services is now chief business affairs officer, and so on. James Stevenson, FSCJ vice president for institutional advancement, will receive the highest bump, an additional $32,586. In 2013, Johnson points out, Stevenson's office took over four other offices within the college, and next month will begin overseeing the general counsel.

Board trustee Tom Bryan says he can see how these raises look uneven to outsiders, but these are people "who were virtually underpaid for doing the work of two people."

Morian says she hopes college officials still embrace the same generous philosophy when it comes time to discuss faculty paychecks. Bioteau and the board, she adds, are well aware of how important salary increases are to FSCJ's professors.

Johnson declined to discuss potential faculty raises, though she did say Bioteau plans to eventually bring all salaries up to the state average.

Tags: Florida State College, Folio Weekly, Cynthia Bioteau, Karen Morian, National Education Association, FSCJ, St. Johns River State College
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