On Monday, Pinellas county schools superintendent starting letting individual schools know that he was proposing to cut about 350 jobs in his proposed 2006-2007 budget. The school employees union is speaking out against the cuts, which they say will eliminate needed positions and are really a route for the privatization of support services throughout the district. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer has the story.

ACT-Boone ‘Tuesday afternoon hen we went tin, we were told there would be an emergency meeting and we were told about propose cuts, 9 in parts room, the following day I got la letter confirming that..�

Bob Boone has worked in the Pinellas county parts department for the past 13 years. He was informed this week that his job may be eliminated in June 30th.

ACT-Boone “my supervisors are trying to come up wit info, they wont say it’s done, but the memo makes it look like a done deal..Wilcox was talking about each department..when he got to the parts, what he doesn’t tell school board there wont be parts or body work, how do you propose to make up the difference because privatization comes up.��

Boone was joined by About 20 Bus drivers, maintenance workers, custodians, and retired school employees, who gathered in front of the Pinellas county school district building in Largo to protest the proposed elimination of about 350 jobs by Schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox.

ACT cheering and Gonzalez “NO LAYOFFS< NO LAYOFFS< NO LAYOFFSS!!..dr Wilcox, you don’t start with people making 7 or 8 bucks an hour..�

Brad Gonzalez, a union representative for SIEU international, says Clayton Wilcox outsourced many support services when he was superintendent of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, school district—his last job before coming to Pinellas county, and Gonzalez believes the plan is the same this time around.

ACT-Gonzalez “there’s a memo that’s gone out, but it hasn’t been approved. We believe the back door is so that Wilcox can outsource..he did it in Louisiana..�

District officials say that if they continue to go to their reserves, they will be $56 million in debt in 4 years. Wilcox presented the school board with his plan on Wednesday. The goal is to cut almost 20 million dollars from eth school districts budget; Wilcox suggested a total of 26 million is cuts, and is leaving the school board to work out which cuts to actually make.
Bill Angelus is the chapter chair for school board local 1220.

ACT-??Angel “if this is a proposed budget cut, why are they telling people now, it hadn’t been approved..�

Some of the support jobs proposed to be cut include 11 trades workers, including a plumber, a locksmith and a sheet metal worker; 12 computer technicians; four paint and body mechanics; six equipment parts specialists; a roofer; and a boiler mechanic.

ACT-angel “there are certain cuts I can understand, if someone leaves but 140, who’s gonna do it….outsourcing, what is he saving?�

More than 100 full- and part-time plant operators - the employees who clean and maintain schools - would lose their jobs. The cuts to custodial workers would increase the workload for each person from cleaning 2400 square feet of space to 2800 square feet per day. Kelly High, a foreman in plant operations, says the end result will be the schools simply wont be as clean.

ACT--Kelly “when a teacher is out, they can get a sub, we cant, we have to gang clean if we are short…we cut back hit the bathrooms and move on, we cant do the full service cause were short..�

Bob Rozier, a bus maintenance mechanic, says right now there are only 4 employees in the parts department who repair buses.

ACT “they said they are cutting..if we don’t have parts..because of the choice program, we only have a few spare buses. If we follow criteria most buses have to be repaired, 2 or 3 days, the buses will be at a standstill.

About 350 of the district's 15,000 full-time staff would lose their jobs or be reassigned. Another 27 part-time staffers would also be affected. Gonzalez says the employees are facing a difficult period.

ACT-Gonzalez ‘the superintendent has created pay inequity, to divide,. You have group that makes 8% versus 1%…by dividing, he’s pitting employees against employees…�

There is already a hiring freeze on for the district for all positions except bus drivers, but many drivers, like Deborah Irwin, were at the press conferences to express their solidarity with the other workers.

ACT-Irwin “and the additional stress form understaffed, when you are under pressure your work quality diminishing, he needs to think about it, show some empathy..�

Gonzalez says Wilcox had a brief meeting with Union leadership earlier this week, but he has not taken time to work with them on finding solutions to the budget shortfall and collaborate on a solution..

ACT-Gonzalez “we are not gonna not put up a fight. The back door is to outsource, he has a plan. I have a letter from the professional development department, so it sounds like a done deal.�

The next school board meeting is February 28th, the employees plan to be there to speak against the cuts. There will also be a budget workshop that day, where the board will determine which of Wilcox’s proposed cuts to implement.. The board is scheduled to vote on the final budget on March 14th. School district representatives did not return WMNF calls in time for this report.

To submit comments on the budget, you can email

For WMNF news, from largo, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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