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Schools

Pinellas schools freeze hiring, travel

Department heads must submit budgets with 2 percent cuts.

By DONNA WINCHESTER
Published July 13, 2007


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Hiring has been frozen, traveling and training will be curtailed, and programs could be eliminated as Pinellas County schools brace for as much as a 4 percent cut in state school funding.

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox informed School Board members late Wednesday that the district "has every intention of returning to normal practice" as soon as possible. But he acknowledged that in addition to a hiring freeze on all "non-essential" personnel, schools and department heads must submit budget reduction recommendations of no less than 2 percent within a week.

Additionally, employee overtime and compensatory time will be prohibited unless approved by high-level administrators and district travel and training budgets that are not already approved have been frozen.

In a tersely worded statement released Thursday, Wilcox said that "the only individuals who can actively be interviewed, offered employment and/or placed are classroom teachers who are counted in our class-size reduction calculations."

News of the hiring, travel and training freeze likely will hit district employees especially hard coming on the heels of Monday's announcement regarding the possible closure of 10 Pinellas schools due to declining enrollment, said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas County Classroom Teachers Association.

"Young families can't afford to live in our district, and that includes young teachers," Black said. "But we need to reassure employees that we will not jump the gun. We will allow every party to be part of the discussion, both with this and with school closings."

Pinellas' response to the proposed state funding cuts came a day after Deputy Education Commissioner Linda Champion told superintendents that all school districts should brace for a 4 percent loss, perhaps as soon as a September special legislative session.

Champion's call ended weeks of speculation regarding how cuts in state revenue of more than $1-billion would affect school budgets.

[Last modified July 13, 2007, 01:41:08]


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