Following the money in Hillsborough
The Hillsborough County School District is working overtime to keep everyone calm in the wake of a consultant report that recommends phasing out 1,700 school district jobs to improve the district's financial position.
On May 27, the same day it released the Gibson Consulting Group's report to the Tampa Bay Times, the district sent this email to its entire workforce:
"Dear HCPS Employees:
As you may be aware, the district has been working with Gibson Consulting Group to assist us in assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of the district's operations and programs. The areas of review in Phase I include: transportation, custodial services, clerical formulas, and school instructional resource allocations.
The recommendations included in the Gibson Consulting Group, Phase I: Operational Efficiency Audit - Report of Major Cost Savings Opportunities are just that--recommendations to the district from a private consulting firm. The objective of this phase was to identify major General Fund cost savings opportunities yielding greater than $1 million in potential recurring savings per year. The report does not represent the decisions of this administration regarding those recommendations.
The administration will collaborate with the unions to ensure smooth implementation of any recommendations. This report reflects a potential savings of $99 million per year.
Board Members and Superintendent Eakins are committed to sound financial stewardship and to providing a clear and consistent pathway to achieving success. Our district's strategic plan guides the philosophy that ensures every decision we make is with our students' and employees' best interests in mind."
It was followed up with this email on Wednesday:
"Dear HCPS employee,
In an email that you received from me on Friday, I referenced the Gibson Consulting Group Phase I report. Here is a link to the report so that you can read it yourself: Gibson Consulting Group Report Phase I.
I want to remind you that these are recommendations from a private consulting group and do not represent decisions of the school boardor administration.
Any recommendations that are pursued will be pursued in collaboration with the unions. Board Members and Superintendent Eakins are committed to sound financial stewardship and to providing a clear and consistent pathway to achieving success. Our district's strategic plan guides the philosophy that ensures every decision we make is with our students' and employees' best interests in mind."
The two emails came from T.G. Taylor, the district's new Chief Communications Officer.
Despite those precautions, there was a strong enough reaction to the news -- and enough online chatter about the school district's 91 six-figure jobs -- that this Tweet was released late Thursday from Superintendent Jeff Eakins:
"Gibson Consulting is looking at all cost savings district-wide. Phase II and Phase III will include operational and academic management."
The School Board will meet June 14 in a 9 a.m. budget workshop, then at 3 p.m. for a board meeting. There could be more news this Monday, as the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association will sit down with district officials for its next bargaining session. And later in the week, Eakins will attend two town hall meeting for transportation employees.
It should be a busy month all around, as Eakins is also re-interviewing a dozen of his top reports, a process he had hoped to complete by July 1.