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Pasco teachers await word on jobs, duties

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County's public school teachers will get official word this week that they'll have jobs in the fall.

But for a couple hundred of them, exactly which jobs remains uncertain.

The district employee relations department is still working to make sure it best matches school needs with teachers' qualifications.

"We have reappointed them to a position next year someplace," assistant superintendent for administration Renalia DuBose said Tuesday after the School Board approved the employee list for 2009-10. "The bottom line is that we work for the district. We don't work for a school."

And one more thing: Their continued employment remains contingent upon the district's ability to pay them.

"That is not something they have ever had to put into (reappointment) letters before, because in the past we've been facing growth and it's not been a question," said Lynne Webb, United School Employees of Pasco president.

This year, the district is projecting flat enrollment and shrinking financial resources. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her finance team spent much of Tuesday afternoon briefing board members and has scheduled most of the week to review next year's spending plan with department directors.

Fiorentino warned the board that the Florida Legislature is talking about holding a special session in September to cut the state budget again, but noted that she's building the local budget anticipating less money than what appears in the current numbers coming out of Tallahassee.

Things seem so uncertain — with teachers learning of their job status so much later than usual, and finances looking so shaky — that Webb sent a letter to all employees seeking to reassure them that the district administration is showing a good faith effort to avoid layoffs.

"The district and the union are committed to having them in a position next year," Webb said.

Fiorentino said saving jobs remains a top priority. That could take time, though, with some people not knowing where they'll be until late summer, she said.

Part of the picture depends on the district seeing its usual summer churn of workers who decide to retire or resign. The human resources department is receiving such notices daily, and that's before the board decides whether it will offer early retirement incentives.

"We hope it all washes out and everything is fine," DuBose said. "That's our hope, that's our goal, and we're close."

One likely result of the attempt to keep all current employees in jobs is that the district appears unlikely to have any positions for outside hiring. "Maybe in specialized areas," DuBose said. "But we've had a hiring freeze since last August, and I don't foresee that letting up any time soon."

Teachers who have been reappointed do not qualify for unemployment benefits, even if they have no permanent assignment, Webb said. Noninstructional staffers who are laid off and put on a recall list, as their contract requires, can apply for the benefits until they are hired for a new post, she said.

Contract negotiations for 2009-10 are expected to begin during the 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.

Fast facts

In other School Board business Tuesday

• Approved the transfer of Schwettman Education Center principal Mimi Foster to become an assistant principal at Anclote High, effective July 1.

• Agreed to pay $1.35 million for 73 acres in the Meadow Pointe area of Wesley Chapel, for the future site of a middle school.

• Approved a maximum guaranteed price of $13.7 million for a new elementary school in the Odessa/Trinity area to ease crowding at Oakstead and Longleaf elementary schools.

• Gave initial approval to the 2009-10 progression plan, which outlines how students get promoted to the next grade. The plan requires an additional public hearing before adoption.

Pasco teachers await word on jobs, duties 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 7:41pm]

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