Monday, Apr 21, 2014
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Pinellas school district considering school staffing

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CLEARWATER -

Pinellas County school district officials expect to overhaul how they staff schools and pay employees this week, one of their first steps toward creating a budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Members of the Budget Advisory Committee and area superintendents hope to have a new staffing model for all Pinellas schools ready by Friday, said the district’s chief financial officer, Kevin Smith.

The model will chart how many full-time employees a school should need to operate at maximum efficiency and how much they should be paid. Those numbers could vary based on individual schools’ needs, but the idea is to have a consistent way to tell if schools are running efficiently.

Just before school employees left for spring break last week, budget committee members finished a month of individual meetings with all 141 of the school district’s principals to review their staffing models and see if there are any extra expenses or positions that could be cut, said Superintendent Michael Grego. It’s the first time principals have had an active role in the school district’s budget conversations, though state classroom size laws limit where adjustments can be made, he said.

“It’s pretty much dictated how many teachers you have to have in the classroom,” Grego said. “After that you’re only looking at potential cuts to your music, physical education, media specialists, guidance counselors, assistant principals and principal, and you have to have a principal.”

There are about 7,000 teachers in the school district. Even if a handful of specialty teachers lose their jobs under the new staffing model, more than likely they will be able to keep working in that capacity at another school, Grego said.

School district officials won’t begin working on the new budget until the Legislature’s final budget is released this week. Smith declined to make any projections on how the school district may fare, but School Board member Carol Cook said that, for the first time in many years, the budget seems to favor education without “horrendous cuts.”

The proposed House budget invests an additional $1 billion in K-12 education, including as much as $676 million in teacher pay increases. The Senate’s budget proposal also includes a $1.1 billion increase, with $480 million for teacher salary increases.

“What will be the net gain or the net loss? We don’t really know for sure,” Cook said. “We have not, as a board, had conversations about cutting teachers or dealing with any big losses in funding, but we do know we’ll have to reduce spending in other places to be able to start some new projects.”

Federal sequestration cuts are expected to reduce the school district’s federal funding by as much as 8 percent, or $6.2 million, said director of special projects Jan Urbanski. But school officials anticipate a loss of no more than 5 percent.

This school year, federal funding accounted for about 13 percent of the district’s $1.2 billion budget. The overall budget included $12 million in reductions from the previous year

The budget process will take about two weeks, Smith said.

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