Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Five areas, not eight, and other structural changes to the Hillsborough school district

Superintendent Jeff Eakins' reorganization of the Hillsborough County School District has something for everyone: A promotion (but no immediate raise) for the facilities chief, a bureaucracy to support 49 struggling schools, and enough savings to give teachers hope for a raise.

Eakins released details of his plan in an email to school employees on Monday, the day before it comes before the School Board. The board does not have to approve the reorganization, it is an information item on Tuesday's meeting agenda.

The Sway presentation seeks to reassure employees that the district is on more solid financial footing, and to counter harsh criticism from leaders of its teachers' union. Year-long negotiations over teacher pay broke off last week, with the two sides more than $30 million apart over terms of the 2018-19 contract.

While union leaders say Eakins has protected administrative jobs while slashing teacher positions and freezing pay, the report issued Monday states that between cuts since 2016 and those planned for the coming year, "we will have eliminated 22 percent of all our district administrator positions."

At the very top, Eakins is not replacing Alberto Vazquez, his former chief of staff. Instead, he will have two deputy superintendents: Van Ayres and Chris Farkas, who is being promoted from his job as chief operating officer. Farkas will not be replaced, but will keep his responsibilities along with some additional ones.

Two assistant superintendent positions will be eliminated, saving more money. Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes are leaving their positions at the end of the school year.

Marie Whelan, who replaced the fired Stephanie Woodford as human resources chief on an interim basis, will be given the job permanently.

Note: "Mr. Farkas and Dr. Whelan will not receive any pay increase until after negotiations with our unions are complete."

Area superintendents Michelle Fitzgerald and Shaylia McRae will be placed in charge of 49 low-performing schools that are now part of the "Achievement Schools" project. This is Eakins' third and by far most ambitious effort to level the playing field for children of poverty, providing extra resources to their schools in a three-tiered system that corresponds with the state's turnaround system.

And, because so many schools will leave the eight administrative areas, there will now only be five areas, each with its own area superintendent and staff.

To conserve money in the district's general fund, Eakins is reclassifying some of his human resource partners, elementary generalists and principal coaches to a new position called "Support Specialist." These changes will do two things: They will redirect the employees' work toward the Achievement schools, and they will use other funding sources, such as the federal anti-poverty grants, and therefore protect the general fund's reserve.

The whole plan, which takes the workforce from 25,173 to 24,335, should save enough money so that teacher raises will be possible again.

"We knew this was something we had to do as an organization," Eakins said. "But as we do this, let's do this for the betterment of the schools and to support the employees."

Eakins also said he plans to bring up the issue of a tax referendum on Tuesday. "Not to do it, just to say that I'd like to explore and do some discovery around it."

Comments
Eakins takes school districtís story to Ballast Point

Eakins takes school districtís story to Ballast Point

TAMPA — First, the disclaimer: "I'm not here to tell you how to vote," Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins told his audience. "I'm here to educate you about why we're here."From there, in his Tuesday evening presentati...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Report: Pinellas improves on achievement gap, but needs to do better

Report: Pinellas improves on achievement gap, but needs to do better

School for black students in Pinellas County is getting better, according to a report detailing the school district's progress a year into its effort to close the educational achievement gap by 2027.Of the six measures included in...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Struggling Plato Academy Pinellas Park vows to boost school culture, attendance

Struggling Plato Academy Pinellas Park vows to boost school culture, attendance

After their school earned a D grade for its first year in operation, educators from Plato Academy Pinellas Park presented an improvement plan to Pinellas County school officials on Tuesday, pointing to plans to improve&#...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pasco schools budget faces showdown over salaries

Pasco schools budget faces showdown over salaries

For the past several months, Pasco County school employees have agitated for pay raises this year.School Board members said they'd look for ways to direct more money into salaries, but so far haven't found much. The current proposal contemplates abou...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Pasco School Board to lay groundwork for new schools

Pasco School Board to lay groundwork for new schools

With enrollment growth continuing and school crowding yet unresolved, the Pasco County School Board is taking steps to add three promised new schools to its inventory.The School Board is poised to approve a 5-year work plan that includes a new middle...
Published: 09/18/18
Florida education news: Oversight, choice, growth and more

Florida education news: Oversight, choice, growth and more

OVERSIGHT: To help convince voters to support its cause, the Hillsborough County school district announces well-respected Betty Castor will head a committee to review spending of revenue from a requested sales tax increase. The money would be de...
Published: 09/18/18
Pasco schools see higher enrollment growth than projected

Pasco schools see higher enrollment growth than projected

In discussing pay raises, Pasco County school district officials have asked their employee negotiating groups to wait and see if more students turn up than expected.The state projected district enrollment to rise by 1,001 children. Any more than that...
Published: 09/17/18
Pasco school district changes its choice application procedures

Pasco school district changes its choice application procedures

Pasco County parents seeking to send their children to schools other than the ones they're assigned to will face a new set of deadlines this fall, as the district streamlines its process.Instead of separating the applications between magnet and open ...
Published: 09/17/18
Florida education news: School security, teacher pay, drinking water and more

Florida education news: School security, teacher pay, drinking water and more

SECURITY: The Florida Board of Education discusses ways to offer school districts more flexibility in the way they use future guardian funding. State lawmakers, however, aren't ready to release unused money from the current year allocation, TC P...
Published: 09/17/18
ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 9, 2018

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 9, 2018

School security remains a point of high concern for Florida schools. When it comes to funding, there’s talk of spending more. Yet when the idea of giving school districts flexibility in deciding how to use the money, there’s not too much ...
Published: 09/15/18