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Teacher and Staffing Cuts Make Up A Large Part of Savings for District's Financial Recovery Plan

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BRADENTON – As teachers and students outside of the Manatee School District Building protested cuts to teacher positions that were announced on the same day, Monday's Manatee School Board workshop began.

Discussion of the finer details of the Manatee School District's 2013-14 budget took a backseat as the school board went over the first phase of its "Financial Recovery Plan" for the district's budget woes, a large part of which is made up of teacher position cuts and other staffing positions, as well as the closing and selling of property and other cost savings.

Going over the plan, Superintendent Rick Mills advised that the total estimated savings from the plan would amount to more than $20.5 million for the 2013-14 school year.

More than half - or more than $11 million - of the cost savings would come from cutting 364 teacher positions. Those cuts Include 107 basic teacher positions (for an estimated cost savings of almost $6.5 million), 24 ESE teachers (more than $1.7 million), 41 rainbow (or assistant) teachers (almost $2.5 million), and 10 ESOL teachers ($607,000).

Also included in the plan was a reorganization of 80 district office positions and functions (59 in operations, 21 in instruction) for an estimated savings of more than $3.5 million. Maintenance and Operations staffing would also see 16 cuts in positions.

100 portables would be closed to save almost $300,000, and more than 20 properties owned by the district would be put up for sale under the plan. The properties include outparcels of two school properties. Most of of the properties are currently vacant, and include sites for future school buildings. The appraised value for most of the listed vacant properities is still to be determined.

After reviewing the Phase I steps, Mills said that the estimated $20.6 million in savings will be used to accomplished four priorities he had outlined: to meet the state-mandated fund balance of $10 million; to "reinvest back into employees" by distributing a teacher pay increase and provide remaining employees with additional compensation this fiscal year; to reallocate resources "to greatly improve student success"; and to restore some internal funding back to schools, the amount of which is still to be determined.

Speaking on class sizes in light of the teacher cuts, Mills said that adjustments could be made to maintain class sizes to the state level.

Board member Robert Gause praised the presenters and at the same time lamented that the presentation document was not available to the board prior to the meeting. "It's hard to come in here and have a good discussion about it when we only see it when we walk into the meeting," said Gause. "... but I know how hard you've been working on it."

Board Chair Karen Carpenter noted that the school board was 11 months behind on starting the budget, "so we have a lot of catching up to do."

After Vice Chair Julie Aranibar asked about how the district plans to assist in transitions for employees displaced as a result of the cuts, Mills said that Deputy Superintendent Don Hall "is putting together a transition approach" for those employees, which will include employment counseling, and that the district will communicate with prospective employers that the displacement was not reflective of the employees' performances.

Echoing Aranibar's comments that the board should have a responsibility to help the displaced district employees, board member David Miner said, "Another way we can communicate to our employees and to our community is that this is not something done lightly, and we do really care about every employee ... a mess that was just kind of dropped on us has to be dealt with ... and we're trying to do it in he very best way ... and we know it's a disaster for some, but it's necessary to avoid a state takeover, which would probably be horrendous to a lot more people and to the district."

Story on the workshop's presentation of the 2013-14 school year budget to follow.


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