The Hillsborough County school system is long overdue for executing a study such as what the Gibson Consulting Group did. This should have been one of the priorities of our district personnel and School Board members. It is a fact that each School Board member has a strong knowledge base of what educational needs our students have. They also should play a key role in the operations of our district. Operations include knowing how to allocate expenditures and to oversee that those expenses are fair, equitable, and will protect the quality of education.
Further, each board member must know what expenditures to cut. Reducing air conditioning is an example of not cutting the right capital expenditure. Children will not learn in stifling hot temperatures, nor can teachers teach effectively. Keep in mind many schools are aging and may have challenges with maintaining optimal air conditioning.
There is an urgent need to return our reserve funds and other deficits to an acceptable level. Returning our reserve funds can be resolved with a direct fiscal response beyond those mentioned in the Gibson report. A suggestion is to cut the district’s higher level employees within a two year period by 40%. Currently there are 91 employees earning more than $100,000 a year, for a total of $10.5 million.
The discussion of cutting teachers and educational resource personnel is not acceptable. As a teacher for decades, I spent more than 10-12 hours per day trying to take care of 5-6 classes which had an excess of 25 or more students. Teachers now have yet another challenge requiring more of their time; that of making lesson plans which reflect the growing diversity inside their classrooms.
There is also a need for a “smarter” fix to the norm of continual school underfunding. I call it using “human resources”. The business community was my source of revenue when I needed to add textbooks, computers, school supplies, and fill tutoring needs. Years ago I called it a “business partnership”. Many of the tools teachers need to teach, including tutors can be met by asking a business to “adopt a school”, and further to “adopt a teacher”.
Our district can no longer wait until our legislative branch appropriates more money to schools and teachers. Nor can our district resolve this financial crisis without dramatic and urgent action; systematically planned and made transparent to all employees and unions. Lynn Gray, Tampa