Pasco County schools preparing 300 layoff notices

LAND O'LAKES — The bad news comes Thursday for the Pasco County School District.

That's when hundreds of employees will learn whether they will be working in the fall.

"People are frustrated. They are anxious, a lot of them because they haven't heard yet," said Kenny Blankenship, vice president-elect of the United School Employees of Pasco. "They want to know if they're going to have a job."

Tuesday, the School Board gave some shape to the numbers of positions the district will eliminate for the coming school year as it works to cut spending by $55 million.

Only a week ago, board members gave the administration direction to slash 513 positions. At their Tuesday meeting, they approved the following breakdown of cuts:

• 248 instructional staff

• 148 instructional support employees, such as classroom assistants

• 94 school-related personnel, such as custodians and cafeteria workers

• nine non-instructional non-bargaining workers, such as some secretaries

• four professional technical workers

• 10 administrators

"I know there is a perception in the community that the district staff should shoulder the burden," board vice chairman Allen Altman said. "The percentages show they have done that."

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she expected about 200 positions to be deleted through retirements and resignations, with about 300 people actually receiving layoff notices.

She said the employee relations staff will continue to review seniority and other factors today before informing people of their status on Thursday.

"We want to be as compassionate as we can be," Fiorentino said. "There is no good way to do this."

Board members said they took no pleasure in making a round of cuts that will hurt people, noting the district has made every effort to avoid layoffs in past years even while slashing spending by millions.

"Unfortunately, with the depth of cuts that are necessary, this is about all that is left in order for us to meet our state mandate of a balanced budget," Altman said.

"We don't have a choice," board member Alison Crumbley said. "I haven't slept in a week. This is horrible for all of us."

She deemed many of the other ideas to get to $55 million in cuts, such as an 18 percent across the board pay reduction, as unacceptable.

"We can't do 18 percent," Crumbley said. "People can't live on that."

Even with the layoffs, plus the use of $21 million in nonrecurring revenue, the board still faces a gap of about $6 million. To fill that amount, the board is asking the USEP to negotiate unpaid furloughs of four days for 12-month employees and three days for everyone else.

Blankenship lamented the situation. He did not, however, point fingers at the board or administration.

"It's quite unfortunate," he said, "that our Legislature won't fund education to the levels that are needed."

In other action Tuesday, the School Board approved the appointment of Dolly Gauvey, former principal of Chasco Elementary School, as principal of Cypress Elementary School. Gauvey, who had taken a leave of absence, replaces Deanna DeCubellis, who was removed in April.

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

Pasco County schools preparing 300 layoff notices 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 9:45pm]

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