Pasco School Board approves handful of administrative cuts

LAND O'LAKES — Although they harbored some reservations, the Pasco School Board unanimously approved superintendent Heather Fiorentino's administrative appointments on Tuesday evening without comment.

The only reductions to the district office were a special education supervisor position and the director of human resources job.

Board members had expected to see more administrative cuts, considering dozens of teaching and staff jobs were eliminated earlier this month as the district works to dig out of a $24.7 million budget hole for next year. In interviews after the meeting, board members said they had wanted to raise concerns about the limited number of cuts, as well as some of the administrative transfers made. But they said their hands were tied.

"It's up to the superintendent," board member Steve Luikart said of the power to place people into certain posts.

The board's only statutory control in hiring is to reject an applicant for cause, such as failing to have the appropriate credentials or meet the job requirements.

But "it's not over," said board member Alison Crumbley, who insisted that the board will continue to look at the number of employees at the district offices.

Board member Allen Altman made the point during an afternoon workshop that state reports show Pasco schools have more employees per student than larger districts such as Lee and Brevard counties. District chief financial officer Olga Swinson challenged the report, saying the data appears to be incorrect.

Altman and others asked for more details, saying it could influence how they decide which positions to cut.

"It is difficult for me to be comfortable doing the cuts that we have proposed at the school level . . . until we get answers to those," Altman said. "The data seems to support that we are skewed."

The board's interest centered on district level administrator jobs, and not those at the schools.

But there has been a debate over whether there are too many assistant principals at the middle and high schools.

"The perception is we never reduce administrators at schools that are losing population," board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said. "Let's talk about it."

Land O'Lakes High principal Ric Mellin spoke up, noting his school often is the example that's used. He explained that the school had five assistant principals before Sunlake High opened, and it has five now. The difference, he said, is that the school was allocated more assistant principals in the past but traded them in for discipline assistants to help handle the crowded school.

"That is not an unusual strategy when a school is overcrowded," assistant superintendent Tina Tiede told the board. "You need more sets of eyes."

When the enrollment shrank as Sunlake opened, Land O'Lakes lost those extra discipline assistants, Mellin said. "Responsibilities are now falling back on administrative staff."

Board members said they were satisfied with that explanation.

"The community doesn't quite understand that," Hurley said. "I don't think we talk about it enough."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

What about RTI?

The School Board did not discuss what will happen with the Response to Intervention efforts after the controversial transfer of Amelia Van Name Larson, who led the initiative for three years. The federally mandated program aims to deal with student learning problems before they become too severe. Van Name Larson has gained statewide acclaim for her work on RTI, which includes training personnel throughout the district.

Board members did not question Fiorentino's decision to make Van Name Larson an assistant principal at a school to be determined. Fiorentino said after the meeting Tuesday that she wants the RTI process to involve more people.

"It was not a one-person job," she said, adding that she wants to establish a couple of model schools that educators from other campuses can visit to see how the process should work. Van Name Larson would head up the effort at one of the model schools, Fiorentino said.

"I want to utilize staff as a team," she said.

Pasco School Board approves handful of administrative cuts 06/20/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 10:32pm]

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