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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas considers cutting 400 positions



UPDATE at 8:43 a.m. Wednesday: More details about which positions are being considered for cuts can be found in the attachment below. The document circulated at yesterday's board workshop but I wasn't able to attach it to the post until now.

After weeks of anticipation, the scope of $60 million in budget cuts for Pinellas schools quickly came into focus today, with the school board considering a slew of stark measures. Among them: the potential elimination of nearly 400 jobs and the possibility of non-paid furlough days for all employees.

Clerks, teachers, librarians, administrators - all are on the chopping block as the school district seeks to fill a historically deep budget hole resulting from declining enrollment and shrinking state funding. Superintendent Julie Janssen said after cutting $118 million over the past five years, it will be impossible to keep the latest rounds of cuts from effecting students.

“There’s nowhere else to go,” she said. “It will start to impact the classroom.”

It won’t be clear exactly how big the cuts will be until the Legislature passes a budget in coming weeks. But the school district has set a $60 million target based on the latest projections.

For more than nine hours today, the board took a long look at Janssen’s initial proposal to get there. Among the ideas: Eliminating all non-mandated bus transportation (savings: $8 million), cutting substitute teachers by half (savings: $2.6 million) and reducing the hours for heating and air conditioning (savings: $3 million.) But with 85 percent of the budget coming from salaries and benefits, the district has no choice but to turn to its employees.

Tuesday’s proposal took an ax to a wide range of positions. High schools would cut 32 electives teachers. Elementary schools would cut 44 teaching assistants. All levels would cut a total of 70 guidance counselors.

It is unclear how many employees may be laid off. Some of the targeted positions are vacant. Some are held by those who have already indicated they will retire. And the district hopes many employees, such as the guidance counselors, will be shifted into other job openings provided there is a good fit.

But the union that represents teachers and support workers began an immediate push back.

“I hate to see them go right for the heart of the guidance counselors,” union president Kim Black, who is a certified guidance counselor, told The Gradebook. “It seems like once again the workers are taking the burden of the budget cuts.”

Black noted that among school-level administrators, three assistant principals were on the cut list. She also said the district is not giving serious attention to a number of proposals that surfaced during input meetings with principals and the public in recent weeks, including a four-day school week and the elimination of school sports.

Read more in tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 1:20pm]


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