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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Florida education jobs to be lost in Palm Coast


by Colleen Wixon

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — School board members discussed forgoing travel next year, swapping science textbooks for teachers and cutting jobs at the district level instead of in schools.

Teachers, parents and administrators crowded into the board meeting room Tuesday to listen as officials grappled with a bleak 2011-2012 budget year. The district expects to need to cut about $6 million from the budget to make up for the loss of state and federal stimulus money, a reduced tax base and increases in fuel and health insurance.

At last week's board workshop, district administrators proposed cutting 39 elementary art, music and media teachers and 13 non-core teaching positions at other schools.

Jody Idlette Bennett, the district's executive director of core curriculum, said the idea to cut the fine arts positions came from school principals. All schools were told to cut $100,000 from their budgets, she said. Elementary schools wanted to make cuts uniform district-wide, but could not touch the core subjects because of the state's Class Size Amendment, she said.

Secondary schools also had to cut budgets, but chose different areas, such as in-school-suspensions, business teachers and a drama teacher, she said.

District administrators have said the positions could be saved if an agreement can be reached with the district's teachers union over performance pay and planning time.

Board member Claudia Jimenez told those attending the workshop the suggestion to cut art and music teachers did not come from the board.

"This board is adamant about doing everything we can to keep music and art," Jimenez said.

Among the ideas is using money from the quarter-mil critical needs tax originally earmarked for science books to pay for art and music teachers. Carter Morrison, assistant superintendent of finance for the district, said this could be done.

Board Vice Chairman Carol Johnson suggested cutting the board's travel budget by one-third, while Chairman Matt McCain suggested eliminating it completely.

Johnson also suggested making the board's executive secretary position a part-time job with benefits and eliminating the deputy superintendent position, now held by Michael Degutis.

"We are attacking some very difficult issues," Johnson said. "We are not talking about people. We are talking about positions. This is a tough side of the table to be on."

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