Thursday, December 14, 2017
Education

Pasco schools reduce literacy coaches amid budget cuts

LAND O'LAKES — A dozen of the positions the Pasco school district created three years ago to enhance student reading instruction won't exist this coming fall.

School Board members, long resistant to cutting literacy coaches from the schools, gave in late Tuesday amid continued efforts to cut spending by $24.7 million. It wasn't their first choice.

"Literacy coaches are going to play a central role in helping teachers work through the process to understand the common core standards and implement them in the classroom. And literacy coaches help with student achievement," board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said. "So that always was an area I had hoped we could leave alone."

But the district faces the reality of needing to hire more basic classroom teachers in order to meet state class-size requirements, while also having lost the federal stimulus funding that paid for the literacy coaches' salaries. High schools will be reducing elective offerings to move some teachers into core courses, assistant superintendent Tina Tiede said.

That alone would not generate enough savings, though. So the next step became dropping 12 secondary-level literacy coach jobs, and then sharing the positions that remain among schools.

The move, announced to middle and high school principals late Tuesday, would save about $700,000. After other planned actions, including furloughs, the board still seeks another $2.4 million in cuts.

"We had to make a compromise," board member Alison Crumbley said. "Financially, there was no other way to make it."

Nancy Bodnar has been a literacy coach at Fivay High School for two years. She was a reading teacher before that for six years.

Bodnar explained her job as working with teachers to help them improve their students' reading skills, offering different strategies that can work in a variety of circumstances. She took the news of the reductions as well as possible.

"I think that will make our jobs more challenging," Bodnar said. "But it will make what we do even more important."

Hurley had concerns that splitting literacy coaches among schools could have major negative effects on schools if not handled properly. She noted that elementary schools faced difficulties in maintaining services this past school year after they had their media and instructional technology specialist jobs cut in half, also for budget savings.

"It is less than ideal," Hurley said. "I hope that they've learned from the media specialists and tech specialists sharing jobs to work with the schools to come up with acceptable schedules and expectations."

Even with the reductions, the district expected that no current contracted employees would lose their jobs, spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said. The employee relations office worked throughout Wednesday to find open teaching spots for anyone displaced by the board's decision, she said.

Every contracted employee got a letter renewing their position for the coming year on Wednesday, the last work day of 2011-12, Romagnoli added.

But the letters carried a caveat, as in recent past years, that everything is dependent on adequate funding.

And board members made clear that job reductions are not over.

"There's going to be more," Crumbley said, stressing that district-level jobs also are on the line. The administration "made some suggestions preliminarily," she said. Based on her reading of fellow board members, though, "what they presented is not enough."

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

Comments

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Published: 12/13/17
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Caitlin Gille grew up in a union household in Wisconsin, where her mom was a long-time teacher in the small city of Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee.She was accustomed to seeing educators advocating for their working conditions and pay, having a sea...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Published: 12/12/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17

Pasco class notes for Dec. 15

School Calendar• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middle High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17