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Pasco budget-cutting plan includes school administrators filling in as substitutes

LAND O'LAKES — On a usual day, Kendra Goodman meets with vendors, reviews contracts, develops bid specifications and all the things you would expect the director of purchasing for a school district with a $1.1-billion budget to do.

She doesn't often make her way to the classrooms.

"I'm on the business side," Goodman says matter-of-factly.

But there she sat Wednesday morning in Portable 8A at the Pasco County School Board headquarters, along with 21 other administrators, learning how to be a substitute teacher. It's something she hasn't done in more than a decade, which was the last time the district had managers head to classrooms to save some money.

This time, superintendent Heather Fiorentino hopes to trim the substitute teacher budget by 10 percent, or about $325,000, as part of a larger plan to cut spending by $16-million. To get there, she will have administrators work as classroom subs four days next year.

"Some have not been in the classroom for 15 years, others never have been," human resources director Renee Sedlack said, explaining the need for Tuesday's six-hour training session. "You could know about the school system. You could know about the laws and the procedures and the policies. But being a teacher is a whole different role."

One that requires some detailed information, even for the certified educators in the room.

"As an ESE (exceptional student education) specialist, my job is primarily compliance with federal requirements for students with special needs," said Sandy May, who taught at Sanders Elementary for nine years before moving to the district office in 2003. "In the past five years since I've been out of the classroom, there's been an awful lot of change. . . . I need to get back in touch with that to make sure I'm effective."

That means getting to know the rules associated with the district's adoption of Learning Focused Solutions, a group of teaching strategies that all educators are expected to use. It means learning about new district software, textbooks and more.

For non-teachers, the training also includes helpful hints like wearing comfortable shoes, classroom management methods like clapping and asking for responses from students to gain their attention, and teaching techniques like offering praise and encouragement rather than criticism.

"It would be wonderful if we could advance the learning," trainer Pat Sinclair told the group. "But at least maintain. . . . We don't have one day to waste. You are bridging the gap for learning."

Sinclair and trainer Tammy Rabon demonstrated many of the strategies and led the group through a combination of lectures and activities designed to give the administrators a feeling of how to run a classroom.

They talked about the need to ask questions beyond the basics, pushing students to higher level thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation. They also reviewed things like how to read a lesson plan and what to write in a note to the regular classroom teacher.

"Don't leave them a James Michener novel," Rabon said. "But you need to leave them some notes about what happened during the day."

Madeline Barbery, who oversees testing for the district, welcomed the information. She has taught at the college level but didn't have the training K-12 educators get in classroom management.

"I think it will be interesting and challenging," Barbery said of the chance to substitute teach. "My husband is a teacher, so I know it's not an easy job."

Chris Williams, the district's planning director, saw pros and cons.

"Certainly, I can understand that we're saving money, and that's a positive," said Williams, who has a background in computers and planning and hasn't taught a school class before. "It also helps us to see the classroom perspective"

On the other hand, he noted, "We all have busy schedules. That's something else we need to take care of."

Subs get paid between $55 and $75 a day, depending on their level of education. The administrators, most of whom earn that much in about two hours, would not have anyone replace them while they're out teaching.

Goodman said she didn't worry about her department keeping afloat while she's out subbing.

"Fortunately for me, I have very capable staff," she said, calling substitute teaching an "opportunity that I enjoy."

The district plans to conduct more substitute training for administrators later this summer.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

By the numbers

$325,000 Is the amount the superintendent hopes to trim from the substitute teacher budget.

$55-$75 Is the amount subs make each day, depending on their level of education.

$0 is the extra amount the administrators will make while they are teaching. No one will fill in for them on their jobs.

Pasco budget-cutting plan includes school administrators filling in as substitutes 06/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 11:12am]
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