JCTA defends trip to Ruth's Chris
Before a packed school board meeting last week, two high-ranking officials with the Jefferson County Teachers Association told board members that district employees needed more than a 1 percent raise, even if it meant a tax increase.
Thursday, August 7th 2014, 5:01 pm EDT
Friday, August 8th 2014, 10:22 am EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before a packed school board meeting last week, two high-ranking officials with the Jefferson County Teachers Association told board members that district employees needed more than a 1 percent raise, even if it meant a tax increase.
Royce Whitman, a librarian at Crums Lane Elementary School and a director with JCTA, said last year she went without medication because she couldn't afford it.
“With only a 1 percent raise, I will take another pay cut this year,” Whitman told the board. “Last year when I chose a lower cost health plan and went to fill my prescription, my bill was $800. I could not pay that so I could not fill my prescriptions as needed.”
Within an hour, Whitman, and four others - including union president Brent McKim - went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
They posted photos on Facebook and Jo McKim – Brent McKim's wife and a goal clarity coach at Central High School – updated her status saying she was “hanging out with JCTA members and staff after the JCBE meeting. The sunset was beautiful!”
More than a dozen teachers contacted WDRB News upon seeing Jo McKim's Facebook post and wanted to know if their union dues paid for the bill at Ruth's Chris.
Brent McKim said in an interview with WDRB that each person paid their own way at the restaurant and that the group was only there for a drink.
“One of our members asked us to go with her because she had heard of a special in which you could get a cheap drink with a great view out on their terrace,” McKim said. “No one ate there. Other than a discounted drink, it is too expensive there.”
When asked if there were any receipts available, McKim said he doubted anyone would still have a receipt.
“The folks I communicated with said they bought one $7 drink and didn't bother with receipts,” he said.
Both the Facebook photos and the status update naming those who went to the restaurant have since been removed.
Aside from Whitman and Brent and Jo McKim, four others were tagged in the update: Beverly Chester Burton, a teacher at Stuart Middle School; Sherry Ann Hughley, a teacher at Olmsted Academy North; Alan Young, a project manager with JCPS and James Hughley, a JCTA employee.
When asked why the photos and status update were removed, Brent McKim said he wasn't sure and referred the question to his wife, who did not immediately return a message left on her cell phone.
The union receives approximately $2 million annually from member dues, according to tax return for the year that ended Aug. 31, 2013.
Contract negotiations involving salaries and benefits between Jefferson County Public Schools and the union have stalled because JCPS is refusing to offer more than the 1-percent raise being mandated by the state. During the meeting on July 28, McKim and others told board members that a 1 percent raise is not enough.
“The previous three (superintendents) always proposed the maximum amount of revenue for our district to invest in our kids,” McKim said during the meeting. “That has not happened since (Donna) Hargens arrived. We are losing ground, not being able to invest in kids, programs and salaries that attract employees.”
Last school year, JCPS teachers and employees did not receive a pay increase. They did receive a 2.5 percent increase during the 2011-12 year and a 1 percent increase in 2012-13.
Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0839 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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