More than 900 staff positions, including 572 teacher jobs, would be eliminated next year under an unprecedented budget reduction plan announced Thursday by Pinellas County School Superintendent Howard Hinesley.
The plan also proposes returning middle schools and high schools to six class periods a day instead of seven, increasing each elementary class by two pupils and cutting staff at every level.
Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, said this is the first time since 1933 that Pinellas has had to lay off teachers.
"Anyone who takes any delight in this type of budget reduction is a sadist," Moore said.
The proposal cuts $32.1-million from the district budget and reduces the number of teachers by nearly 5 percent.
And this may not be the end. Hinesley said his staff originally wanted him to trim $35-million. But, he said, "We got to the point where we decided to take a little risk and hope $32-million was enough."
He said he still isn't sure where he can find money for raises or for higher utility costs and other expenses increased by inflation.
Still to come in March are his recommendations for financing sports programs and other extracurricular activities.
The proposed staff cuts, to be considered by the School Board next week, would not take effect until next school year.
Hinesley said this proposal was serious, not a smokescreen to get more money from the Legislature.
"Nobody in their right mind would come out with this if they were posturing," he said.
If more money than expected becomes available, Hinesley said he would recommend restoring smaller elementary classes.
_ WILMA NORTON