The Pasco County School Board wants more information before they decide on superintendent Kurt Browning’s proposal to eliminate school media specialists and literacy coaches.
Browning’s package of proposed budget cuts calls for eliminating 56.5 media specialist positions and 33 literacy coaches in district elementary, middle and high schools to save more than $4.8 million.
But at an April 16 budget workshop, school board members made it clear that they want to discuss the issue in greater detail.
During its board meeting that night, members voted to discuss the issue on May 7 when Browning is expected to provide more detailed information about positions that would be assigned to serve more than one school.
The media specialists and literacy coaches are included in the 260.5 positions Browning has proposed to eliminate to help plug a $19 million budget hole.
School board member Joanne Hurley told Browning she’s not comfortable with his proposal regarding the media specialists and literacy coaches.
As the district faces tougher academic standards, it’s important to provide school-based support, Hurley said, in an interview after the workshop.
“They’re taking away two very valuable resources,” Hurley said. “Those people do have direct contact with students.”
Board member Alison Crumbley wants to hear more details of Browning’s planned approach.
“I want to know what the specific plan is and how it relates to the students and student success,” she said, after the workshop. She wants to know “what the exact impact will be on our students.”
Board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong also wants more details.
“I’m looking forward to hearing the proposal that the superintendent’s office is going to bring to us,” she said in an interview after the workshop.
Board member Steve Luikart has a plan of his own. In an interview after the workshop, he said he’d like to see a slower transition than the one Browning has proposed.
At the workshop, Browning reminded board members that any reduction in his proposed cuts would require finding equivalent cuts elsewhere.
Browning also asked for direction in the approach he should use in balancing the district’s budget.
“Does the board want me to use nonrecurring revenue to balance the budget, or do you want me to find an additional $5 million in cuts?” Browning said.
Browning said he’d like to get away from using nonrecurring funds, which was a common practice in years past.
Board members concurred.
“I think the time has come where we really can’t do that again,” Hurley said.
Armstrong added, “At some point it’s just irresponsible to keep raiding the funds.”
Browning also informed the board that his proposed budget does not meet the state’s class size requirements. His proposal would save $4.033 million, but it would cost the district $213,000 in penalties for failing to meet the mandate.
Browning also said his team is “going to go back in and assess the number of APs (assistant principals) at our schools.”
Acknowledging that reducing the number of APs may not be popular, Browning said, “This is going to be shared pain-making.”
Luikart, a former AP, said he doesn’t see how the district can afford to make cuts in that area.
Browning said he hopes people whose positions are cut will be able to find new roles within the district as vacancies arise because of retirements or resignations.
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