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Federal stimulus funds may put 94 Hernando County teachers back to work

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board may be able to save some of the teaching positions it has slated for elimination, thanks to the federal stimulus dollars.

Superintendent Wayne Alexander said Friday that the district would use about $5 million in stimulus money to create new positions, mostly in federally funded low-income and special education programs.

The news doesn't take him out of the hot seat; both the teachers union and some board members have called for his firing this week, first for the manner of his job-cutting and then for failing to tell them he was seeking a new job for next fall.

But it could be good news for 94 Hernando teachers who were told they'd lose their jobs.

"It doesn't necessarily guarantee each one of them a job," said business services director Heather Martin. "(But) we will have positions for (most) of the people who were nonreappointed for reasons other than poor performance or certification."

She said 175 teachers had been told in recent weeks they were losing their jobs due to budget cutbacks. Of those, 81 would be released for performance or certification problems, she said.

But the remaining 94 are teachers the district would like to retain. Forty-four of them will be assigned to anticipated openings in other schools, while 50 more will keep their jobs thanks to the creation of new positions, Alexander said.

Some veteran teachers will need to be moved into the federally funded positions due to certification restrictions, freeing up other slots for some nontenured teachers who had been told they would lose their jobs, officials said.

They acknowledged the district might have to reduce its teaching force after the two-year stimulus funds are spent, unless the economy recovers enough to generate additional funding.

"(These) are 50 positions that we want to bring back to keep some of our highly qualified teachers, who were part of the staffing plan that was recently approved," Alexander said. "We hope there's going to be lots of money coming back (when the economy recovers)."

Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association, called those moves a "step in the right direction."

But he said the union has not abandoned its call for the School Board to fire Alexander over the staffing plan. The HCTA said Wednesday that morale in the district has never been lower, due to what it called Alexander's "favoritism" in reducing staff levels and his failure to account for the federal stimulus or current state budget plans.

A day later, School Board members James Yant and Pat Fagan echoed those sentiments, saying Alexander violated his contract by failing to inform the board of his efforts to seek a new job in Massachusetts for next fall.

Alexander again refused to comment on that situation Friday.

All of that — the stimulus plan, the budget, nonreappointed teachers, and the future of Alexander as superintendent in Hernando — is on the table for discussion Tuesday at a 1 p.m. workshop and a 7 p.m. regular meeting.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Federal stimulus funds may put 94 Hernando County teachers back to work 04/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 6:44pm]
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