Sunday, February 25, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board keeps media specialists, literacy coaches for now

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco school media specialists and literacy coaches got a reprieve Tuesday as the School Board declined to eliminate their jobs from next year's staffing plan.

The board left open the possibility of eliminating those positions at a later point, but asked superintendent Kurt Browning for other options to cut spending. Removing 57 media specialists and 33 literacy coaches was slated to save about $5 million as the district faces a projected shortfall of $19.5 million.

Board member Joanne Hurley said she was "not really comfortable" with the superintendent's plan, and did not want to approve a staffing formula that might hurt the proper levels of student support in the schools.

"I don't want to approve something tonight that can't be changed," Hurley said.

At the same time, she and her colleagues told Browning that they do not want to balance the 2013-14 budget by dipping into nonrecurring revenue sources, as they have done in recent years.

"At some point it's just irresponsible to keep raiding the funds," board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said.

That put Browning in the difficult position of needing to find at least an additional $5 million in "hard" cuts.

Browning advised enduring the pain all at once, rather than continuing to use reserves.

"Any time you take anything off this list, you are asking us to go out and find an equal cut," he told the board.

But he agreed to go back with his team and look for alternative reductions.

"I will come back to the board on May 7 with a plan to plug the $19.5 million budget hole," Browning said.

The possibilities could include further streamlining of district level departments and cutting back assistant principal positions.

"We've picked all the low hanging fruit," Browning said, adding that the time had come for "shared pain making."

Other savings already on the table include reductions in costs associated with running Shady Hills and Quail Hollow elementary schools, which will temporarily close for renovations.

The district also is looking at saving $4 million by not meeting the class size amendment next year. The expected penalty is about $213,000.

Several speakers appeared on behalf of the media specialists. Lacoochee Elementary media specialist Michelle Martinez thanked the board for at least considering not cutting their positions.

In other business, the School Board ratified 2012-13 contracts for teachers and school-related personnel.

It also approved the unpaid suspension of Connerton Elementary School principal Anna Falcone, who was relieved of duty before spring break. Browning has recommended she be fired for her repeated efforts to obtain the names of respondents to a confidential school climate survey, even after being told not to pursue the information.

Several speakers came to the meeting Tuesday to speak for and against Falcone. She is expected to appeal her case to the School Board next month.

In the meantime, the board approved the appointment of Aimee Boltze as interim principal at Connerton.

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