There wasn’t hours of discussion or a lengthy debate. Parents didn’t line up outside the doors and teachers didn’t turn out in droves with protest signs.
Only a few comments and some choked back tears came before the Pasco County School Board voted unanimously to move ahead with closing its $54 million-plus budget shortfall by eliminating 513 positions.
“We are faced with a situation here that nobody wanted when they signed up for this deal,” said board member Allen Altman after making the motion to approve the cuts. “I appreciate the way our community and staff have approached this. This is a difficult task.”
“I have appreciated the emails I have gotten from our staff and teachers,” said board member Cynthia Armstrong. “They are showing that they understand. It doesn’t make the decision any easier.”
With tears in her eyes, board member Alison Crumbley echoed Altman and Armstrong’s comments.
“I appreciate the participation from the community in the town hall (meetings),” she said.
Crumbley spoke about words of inspiration she keeps with her during meetings. They are meant to remind her that decisions made by the board should benefit the education of Pasco’s children.
“This kind of flies in the face of that,” she said.
The proposal to cut positions was brought about by a budget shortfall of more than $54 million. A number of measures were taken to close that gap to about $32 million. School district staff recommended cutting 55 district level positions, 458 school level positions and adding in furlough days as a way to cover the remaining shortage.
Not all 513 cuts will result directly from layoffs. Normal attrition due to retirement and moves out of the district will account for some, district officials have said.
The process of letting school employees know who will be laid off as a result of the action will begin Thursday, said Summer Romagnoli, the district’s spokeswoman. It may take several weeks to identity and notify everyone who will be impacted, district staff said.
Earlier in the meeting, teacher Georgiann Jones told board members staff understands the current needs. She, however, warned them that morale is low.
“We understand the absolute devastation of what has happened with the budget,” she said. “We would like to ask you in looking beyond this to please look at the environments and what the teachers are accomplishing and what they need to accomplish with you. We feel extremely defeated and disrespected.”