A new report from the Hillsborough County school district provides the first detailed look at staffing cuts for the coming year, prompting a wave of parent protests.
A loss of 1,000 positions means principals must be creative in scheduling music, art and physical education for the younger children, and selective in what specialty courses they offer in the middle and high schools.
Some worry about the wear and tear on classroom teachers, who take their planning time when students are in “specials,” as the part-time classes are called.
And, although demand is supposed to drive the choice of middle and high school offerings, there is sure to be some disappointment.
“Lost no programs, but orchestra will be a halftime position,” says a notation about Rodgers Middle School, part of a thick booklet of information that was shared with the School Board late Friday. “We added two sections of journalism and one section of robotics.”
Turkey Creek Middle School gave up orchestra and reduced agriculture, according to the report.
At Smith Middle, the report indicated there will be no more chorus program; but the school wants to add an elective called Exploring Medical Skills.
School board members, who are fielding complaints from parents at the schools, said the situation appears to be fluid, with some classes restored in recent days.
See detailed information from the report, including:
- A summary of the cuts, plus line-by-line detail on elementary schools from A to V.
- Cuts at Woodbridge and Yates elementary schools, plus middle schools from A to D.
- Cuts at middle schools from E to W.
- Cuts at middle schools from Williams; K-8 schools.
- High school cuts.
- Alternative and career school cuts.
- NEWLY ADDED: District level jobs
You can also read comments about school-by-school adjustments after the cuts.
As some employees divide their time between schools, the report refers in some places to fractions of a position.
For example: Bay Crest Elementary School will see a net loss of lost 6.8 positions, including classroom aides for bilingual and disabled students; and lunchroom workers.
Riverview High School is losing 20.75 positions, including an assistant principal, a reading coach and two English teachers. Sumner High, a brand-new school that is adding grades, is gaining 30.4 positions.
The cuts follow nearly 30 meetings that have taken place since January with principals, assistant principals and the School Board, some live-streamed to the public.
The overriding objective is to pare down operating expenses so the district will not find itself in danger of a state takeover, or having to take out bridge loans to meet payroll. Critics say federal COVID-19 relief funds should be more than sufficient to keep the district afloat. But the state wants that money to be used for onetime, pandemic-related expenses, and not to perpetuate deficit spending.
District leaders, under superintendent Addison Davis, say there have always been staffing formulas to control spending; they just were not being followed until now. The district adjusted the formula to reduce the number of assistant principals. As expected, schools with International Baccalaureate programs lost the assistant principals who were hired specifically for IB.
As Davis indicated months ago, the cuts were across the board, including secretaries. At the School Board members request, Davis also provided data showing $6.9 million worth of cuts in the district’s central offices.
Board member Nadia Combs said Monday that she still wants to see more specifics about cuts at the highest levels of administration, as the central office workers on the list include many teachers. She is also unhappy about the dozens of assistant principals who are being cut, as they worked hard during the pandemic and do not enjoy the same protections as unionized teachers.
On Facebook over the weekend, parents were mobilizing to stage a protest before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. board meeting, and then address the board during public comments. Such tactics proved effective in the fall, when the district announced an earlier round of cuts and then lessened the blow.
Board member Jessica Vaughn, in a long Facebook conversation with a Westchase parent, explained that board members do not vote on the cuts. They hire the superintendent, and after that they must allow him to manage the district’s day-to-day operations.
When the parent referred to Davis as “a monster,” Vaughn argued that the real problem is inadequate funding from the state, and that’s where parents should direct their anger.
“I’ve studied every single line item in our budget closely,” Vaughn wrote. “I’ve been told (repeatedly) that I’ve studied the budget more closely than any other school board member in decades. Why is it so hard to believe that our state has been intentionally starving our public education for decades? They aren’t even hiding it.”
Vaughn went on to write that, although she and Combs are the most visible in pushing back against Davis, other members are also concerned about the impact the cuts will have on families and school programs.
The board will meet twice on Tuesday. The 9:30 a.m. gathering, at the Instructional Services Center in East Tampa, is a workshop to discuss one reason for the district’s dwindling revenues: privately managed charter schools, which consume roughly $250 million of district dollars every year and educate more than 30,000 of its students. The workshop will focus on IDEA, a Texas nonprofit that is expanding its charter school operation into Hillsborough, and R.I.S.E, another charter operation.
The morning session is open to the public, but no public comment is allowed.
The 4 p.m. meeting, at district headquarters in downtown Tampa, does allow public comment. If too many people sign up to speak, however, the board will sometimes limit each person’s speaking time to two minutes or less.
The meeting agenda does not include discussion of the staffing cuts.