Pasco school district imposes temporary hiring freeze

Published Feb. 5, 2013

LAND O'LAKES — Dolly Gauvey had hoped to find a new full-time fourth grade teacher to fill a vacant spot on her staff.

Now the Cypress Elementary School principal is just hoping that the certified substitute she has in the classroom doesn't find a permanent job elsewhere.

Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning imposed a district-wide hiring freeze on Monday, forcing Gauvey and all other officials with open jobs to cancel their ads Tuesday morning.

"It doesn't mean we're not hiring," Browning said Tuesday. "Now we're doing everything individually."

If leaders determine a position is critical to their daily operations, they can request permission from one of the district's two assistant superintendents to make a hire.

Driving the decision is the administration's effort to evaluate ways to deal with an expected $23 million budget shortfall in 2013-14.

"We just wanted a freeze on in case we have to cut any positions," assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said.

By keeping positions vacant, the district would more easily be able to find new jobs for anyone whose slot is eliminated.

"It just really is precautionary," Gadd said. "It really doesn't have anything to do with right now. It has to do with the future."

Browning, who recently unfroze and filled a handful of administration jobs, added that he did not want to hire into certain positions while departments remain under review for reorganization.

"There is no sense in bringing people on only to have to let them go," he said.

In the short term, Gauvey said she expected to be able to handle the freeze on her teaching vacancy. She remained hopeful that the situation won't last.

Professional development director Chris Christoff, who canceled an ad seeking two school psychologists, shared that muted optimism.

Christoff plans to use the two psychologists to work with schools on key education reforms. They were to lead efforts on multi-tiered responses to student needs, with a goal of eliminating dependence on special education.

"We currently have two (multi-tiered system of support) coaches," he said. "So we could deal with that for the next couple of months. Then we will have to reassess. Ultimately, I am hoping once we get a clearer picture of the budget, we can restore those positions."

For the time being, though, all jobs will remain frozen.

Gadd and assistant superintendent Amelia Larson have told all hiring administrators not to make job offers to anyone they have not already reached, and to consult with them on offers that have been made to confirm whether the hiring may continue.

The term of the hiring freeze is indefinite.

Earlier this year, the Polk School Board implemented a similar hiring freeze to cover the costs associated with a pay raise. Contract negotiations resume in Pasco this week.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.