Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Business leaders propose cost-saving ideas to Pinellas schools

Fresher cafeteria food. Fewer portable classrooms. Limiting payouts for sick leave. Cutting 5 percent of district staffers and compressing the teacher pay scale.

Those are among the ideas being pitched today to the Pinellas County School Board by a coalition of business leaders. The goal is to get more money into the classroom, said Jim Myers, chairman of the Pinellas Education Foundation.

"It's their job, not ours, to make decisions," he said.

This is the second "Savings for Classrooms" report to come out of the foundation, a business-led nonprofit that raises money for schools. The timing is perfect: School Board members are getting their first in-depth look today at the proposed $1.2 billion budget for the coming year. The tentative budget will be adopted in July, with final budget approval in September.

The proposed spending plan, which is about on par with last year's, wasn't available on the district's website Wednesday.

Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said the district is taking a more strategic view of the budget than it has in previous years, starting with a couple of basic questions: "What does it take to run a school system?" and "How do we fund it?"

The district isn't looking at big budget cuts, as it has in past years. Neither is it flush with excess cash. Superintendent Mike Grego, who wasn't available for comment Wednesday, has preached using money efficiently, always with an eye on how expenses relate to student achievement.

The foundation presented its first report to the school district last year after 32 business and government leaders from outside the school system met dozens of times. Their work centered around six main areas, including construction, energy, health insurance and transportation.

Several of those ideas were adopted by the district, including selling some vacant land and buildings and getting rid of some portable classrooms.

This year, 20 more business leaders joined the group's efforts, adding four areas of concern. Those were food service, management and labor relations, technology, and organizational structure. Myers said it was a "top-notch group" of volunteers.

The food service committee, for instance, recommended improving the quality of school lunches to drive demand, particularly with the "more demanding" high school students and faculty. One suggestion was to "add some flavorful homemade sauces and dressings."

Business leaders on the labor relations committee suggested condensing the teacher salary schedule and eliminating automatic salary progression. They said the current setup makes it harder to recruit teachers with particular expertise.

Cook said some of the suggestions are valid, while others, such as compressing the pay scale, are more complex than they appear to outsiders. That suggestion, in particular, would be subject to negotiations with the teachers union.

"Some of the things that were proposed would be good in a perfect world, but we can't (do them) because of laws or other limitations," she said.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Business leaders propose cost-saving ideas to Pinellas schools 06/26/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 12:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.