Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

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 [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Comments
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18