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Planned layoffs stun county teachers

A devastated and angry faculty filed out of the Clearwater High School media center Thursday afternoon wondering whether school would ever be the same.

The teachers had watched on television as Superintendent Howard Hinesley announced his plan to cut 922 jobs to save $32-million.

"It definitely does not look good," physical education teacher Dea Loy said. "There is a strong possibility graduation requirements will be lowered and that will directly affect a lot of (physical education) teachers."

Mary Cummings, head of the school's guidance program, was sympathetic.

"These teachers work hard to build strong programs," Cummings said. "Then along comes something like this."

Silence followed Hinesley's announcement. The only applause of the afternoon had come earlier when the teachers learned Clearwater High School would not be losing volunteer coordinator Matile Hendry.

"What an important job she'll have next year," Cummings said.

Principal Ed Evans, who was involved in discussions about where to make the cuts, said, "This hasn't been a fun time for me. I know it hasn't been for you, either.

"And it doesn't make it any easier when you're sitting here with people you know won't have a position next year."

Hinesley told teachers he expects these cuts to be permanent.

"We need to stick together as a faculty," Evans said. "We need to stick together as a county. Take your anger out on the Legislature."

The scene was equally glum at Bay Point Middle School in St. Petersburg.

"Any cuts at all are criminal," said Bay Point science teacher Peggy McCabe, who left a job in public relations recently to teach.

"I love working with kids," said McCabe, a science teacher. "But I'm not going to do it under impossible odds."

McCabe said she has to scrimp for beakers and test tubes. These cuts are going to cause additional morale problems among her colleagues, she said.

"The gains we worked so hard for are just going to erode away," said Bay Point language arts teacher Claudia Maynard. "Our job becomes one of supervision rather than being able to instruct."

At Clearwater High, social studies teacher Jim Campas said parents might be willing to press legislators for more school dollars if the parents were more directly affected by cuts.

"What parent is affected when five teachers are cut?" Campas asked. "But if the intervention center teachers are cut and (parents) have to deal with their kids at home, then they might be affected."

Teacher John Tsacrios reminded everyone that state Rep. Tim Jamerson, D-St. Petersburg, is chairman of the Florida House of Representatives' Education Committee.

"He's the one you should harrass," Tsacrios said.

Teacher Roger Magee furnished the staff with Jamerson's Tallahassee telephone number _ (904) 488-0925.

Evans assured teachers he would do everything within his power to keep them on staff next year.

"I don't want to lose anybody," Evans said. "This is one of the worst times I can remember. The 1968 (teacher's strike) was nothing compared to this."