Last night, the Pinellas county school board voted for final approval of 19 million dollars in budget cuts, and eliminated at least 140 jobs. It was the culmination of months of discussions, that began when Schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox proposed 26 million dollars in potential cuts and told the school board to whittle the list down. Wilcox said that a decline in student enrollment over the past 5 years by 4000 students means that the amount of money the state gives Pinellas county has decreased; another problem was that 22 million dollars in increased state spending was earmarked to pay for the classsize reduction amendment.

ACT-wilcox “in the very time the funding has been increasing, the legislature has been targeting $$$, they give you 36 million and call 22 million, that’s disingenuous, we didn’t have those dollars to address fuel coast this year..�

But school board member Mary Russell focused on the financial impact of the county’s school choice plan, which was created to settle a federal desegregation lawsuit. School choice attempts to integrate schools by encouraging students to attend schools outside their neighborhoods. But additional costs for bus service have were close $45-million this year.

ACT-Mary Russell “we didn’t have enough for choice to begin with, …we dint have enough for busing..we didn’t give schools resources to make choice a viable solution to begin many years have we spent..our shortfall was in the choice area.�

School board member Linda Lerner suggested 1.4 million dollars in jobs that should be saved, she suggested in be balanced out by cutting a testing program by the Kaplan test preparation company, her suggestion were supported by board members Janet Clark, and Mary Russell but they were outvoted 4 to 3. Board members Janet Clark, Linda Lerner and Mary Russell tried to save some of the jobs, including a grant-writing specialist, two assistants in the instructional technology department, 3 truancy workers and some vehicle maintenance workers. When Lerner brought up discussion of saving a grant writer position the decision came down to whether the cut would result in a layoff.

ACT-lerner “We have two grant specialists it’s a large district, we are cutting costs, we have more grant writers, just having 2 is abysmally low, I’m very much against that cut…CLARK. I agree with Ms Lerner, eliminating a position is counterproductive..GALLUCI..i want to clarify the position is vacant..�

Board member Mary Brown said that accountability systems need to be put in place, and new hiring decisions need to be thought out more thoroughly in the future, so that layoffs wont have to occur again. Donna Palanker, a research analyst with SEIU representative asked that jobs cuts to maintenance and vehicle maintenance not take place.

ACT “Cutting maintenance jobs will not save money, its gonna come through overtime, contracting, or safety..�

Associate Superintendent Ron Stone said the district will be notifying the employees today, and will assist in trying to get them jobs elsewhere.

ACT “We have made commitment to as many as we can so they can remain in the district..We have held positions in report anywhere we think we can place individuals in, I will be meeting with SEIU to look at who is impacted and look at our procedures preserve benefits..�

ACT-stone ‘We have a number of agencies and corporations that said we would like to help, we will try to work with you on that..�

School board member Mary Russell said she was disappointed in the tone of the past several weeks of budget deliberations, in that they weren’t made with an eye towards the future/

ACT-Russell “I think if you are gong to right size a district you are proactive, but that’s not what we are doing, I think we are right sizing, we are cutting a budget..�

District officials were scheduled to meet today with union officials, where they would identify and confirm all employees who were being laid off.

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