EAST COUNTY— In the first move in a lean year ahead, the Manatee County School District will eliminate 188 staff positions for the 2013/2014 school year in the aftermath of a $3.4 million budget deficit.
Bill Vogel, the leader of new Superintendent Rick Mills’ transition team, said the cuts would save $11 million.
“This, alone, has the potential of stabilizing the budget,” Vogel said.
The cuts include eliminating roughly 95 teachers, plus custodians, teacher aides and speech therapists.
Vogel expects most of those individuals cut to be reassigned to different positions within the district or to be absorbed through the district’s average yearly 200-position attrition rate, the number of staff who retire or leave the district on their own accord each year.
District leaders were unclear if the cuts actually will put staff out of jobs.
“This is probably a wash,” said Karen Carpenter, School Board chairwoman. “We are not talking layoffs. We don’t want to punish classrooms and teachers.”
Fellow board member Robert Gause was more muted.
“We don’t know for sure what the impact will be,” Gause said. “We don’t know if any teachers will lose jobs. We hope that attrition absorbs most of it.”
The plan also adds 22 technology assistants in elementary and middle schools and eight parent liaisons to elementary schools that do not have assistant principals.
The district savings plan cuts back by adjusting class sizes and changing student-and-teacher ratios.
The Florida Class Size Amendment says classes should have no more than 18 students for pre-kindergarten through third grade; 22 students in grades four through eight; and 25 students in grades nine through 12.
David Gayler, Manatee County’s former interim superintendent who left before Rick Mills took over March 20, left a note for his successor, recommending the need to get away from having smaller class sizes than the state requires.
The district was staffing elementary schools with a student-to-teacher ratio of 16-to-1 instead of the required 18-to-1.
Gause said the smaller class sizes were an attempt to fill underutilized classrooms. However, he said the smaller classes haven’t improved student academic achievement.
“The way we were doing it, we were not getting achievement results,” Gause said.
Up until he left March 18, Gayler remained baffled by the over-allocation of teachers.
“This isn’t only a dollar saver,” Gayler said. “It allows you to go into a year with exactly what the state requires and no more. If anything, you should under allocate. You can always hire more teachers if the seats fill up.”
The changes might also trickle up to the administration.
Before he left, Gayler recommended adding a director of budget to the staff who would work separately from the director of finance (currently Angela Fraser).
Gayler also said Mills should bring in some of his own people.
Mills is in the process of analyzing his leadership team and deciding how to reorganize, if at all, top administrative positions.
He will present his reorganization plan to the School Board April 8.
Contact Josh Siegel at email@example.com.
Positions to be cut for 2013-14
• Teachers, all grades: 96.8
• Elective teachers: 24
• ESE teachers
(high school/middle): 30.8
• Custodians: 17
• Elementary media
• Teacher aides: 44
• Speech therapists: 7
Positions to be added for 2013-14:
• Technology assistants
(elementary/ middle): 22
• Parent liaisons
(elementary schools): 8
• AVID teachers: 3.2