Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Published January 19 2018
Updated January 19 2018

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.

Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exist after July 1.

And Alberto Vazquez, the chief of staff who left in December for a comparable job in Hartford, Conn., will not be replaced.

The three earned a combined $456,000, not including benefits.

Tye, 60, is assistant superintendent for educational access, opportunity and alternatives. She has been with the district since 1981 and her areas of expertise include special education.

Sykes, 57, heads the Office of Outreach and School Improvement, a department Eakins created in 2016, around the time he hired Harrison Peters to replace Sykes as Chief of Schools.

The plan, district officials said, is for the departments headed by Sykes and Tye to be combined with or absorbed by other district offices.

"This is not about the people in those positions," Eakins wrote in an email to all employees.

"And this does not indicate we suddenly feel the work done by those divisions is not important. What it indicates is that our district is in the final stage of a major recovery from where we were three years ago. At that point, we were spending $130 million more than we were making and we were headed for a critical financial position that would have impacted our students for decades to come."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: More Cuts for Hillsborough Schools

District spokesmen on Friday said that if Sykes and Tye remain in the school system after July 1, they will be paid the appropriate salaries for the jobs they accept — even if that means a pay cut. No new positions will be created for them.

The district has been under pressure to cut overhead from both the investment community, which is watching the reserve accounts closely, and its teachers, who have seen their salaries frozen this year. The teachers’ union opposes the freeze and is in a bargaining impasse with the district.

"Our district has not been through a period like this in some time," Eakins wrote.

"I understand this may create uncertainty for you and your families. Please know that if we do not take these steps — and if we instead continue to spend millions of dollars more each year than we are bringing in — the future would be far more uncertain for everyone in our district, and it would cause a financial crisis that will hurt our students long into the future."

More changes like these are expected later in the year, with input from the workforce and community. Eakins said previously that he plans to cut between 500 and 1,000 jobs, largely through attrition.

"We will be engaging stakeholders — site-based, district-level, and members of the community — at all levels to look at how we are operating and serving students," Eakins wrote.

"We will need to make tough choices to reduce our workforce and focus on where our district is headed — to build a stable financial future that allows for growth in the years ahead."

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or Follow @marlenesokol