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Schools forced to shuffle positions

Bay Point Elementary will get a new principal, other school district jobs are being reshuffled and some positions are being eliminated.

It's all happening because school officials are grappling with a tight budget.

The shuffling and elimination of 16 jobs, ranging from district administrators to maintenance workers, will save an estimated $625,000, said Bob Paskel, deputy superintendent.The move also will enable the district to begin hiring teachers for the coming school year, he said.

There will be no layoffs, however, because the 10 jobs being eliminated are not currently filled. Those are eight maintenance and two technical jobs, Paskel said.

The other six jobs include four teachers who were working on special assignment in administrative jobs. They will return to teaching.

The other two affected are district administrators.

One, Charlie Eubanks, best known for moderating last fall's desegregation hearings, will become principal of Bay Point Elementary School if the School Board approves. Eubanks lives in Dunedin and makes $60,459.

Eubanks could not be reached for comment.

The St. Petersburg school, a science and technology magnet, has been run as a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, but will be split into an elementary and middle school next year to deal with a larger student body. Bay Point's current principal, Dennis Griffin, will remain in charge of the middle school. The second administrator, Chris Collins, will return to teaching, likely in an elementary school. Collins is a facilitator in the district's Quality Academy, which is leading an effort to change the way classrooms and departments are run. The goal is to have them run in a more businesslike manner.

"That's not a whole lot of shuffling in a system this size," Paskel said.

But it's more reshuffling than the district envisioned a week ago. It arose as the result of an executive session the School Board held Tuesday when members discussed collective bargaining and uncertainties of the state budget.

Gov. Lawton Chiles has asked the state Supreme Court to rule on parts of the budget that would force schools to put more money into classroom teaching. The court is expected to hear the case Wednesday.

The board, Paskel said, wants to be in a position to act if a "worst case scenario" happens.

Paskel said school starts in six weeks and the district has not been able to hire teachers because of the budget uncertainty. By freeing up the $625,000, he said, the personnel office will be able to begin hiring people to get ready for the students' return.

Although the decision may be understandable under the circumstances, one of the people affected is disappointed.

"I think that it's unfortunate that the decision was made that way, but I suppose that I'll make the best of it," Collins said.

Her experiences at the district level will come in handy, she said, but "I think I would have a broader impact at the district level, but the people who made the decision didn't see it that way. I don't know what their choices are."