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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hundreds of school clerks to lose their jobs in south Florida, thanks jobs govenor Rick Scott

By Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel

Palm Beach County school principals are recommending the elimination of 289 clerk jobs in media centers and offices to help the school district save nearly $10 million and reduce a budget shortfall, officials said on Monday.

But a proposed merger between the School District Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is a dead issue and will not be considered among ideas to reduce school system expenses next year.

The School Board's budget advisory committee discussed both developments during a meeting at district headquarters. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw notified the committee that he "respectfully declines" to make a formal bid to handle school security.

In a letter dated April 20, Bradshaw said the committee's perception of a possible merger had become "tainted by unsubstantiated, erroneous and self-serving statements" by District Police Chief Jim Kelly.

Last week, Kelly told the committee that a merger would add $3 million to the cost of patrolling campuses. Bradshaw, in his letter, responded that there would be "cost savings and enhanced service."

Ken Cohen, vice chairman of the seven-member volunteer citizens committee, said Monday he was "troubled by the inconsistencies" between Kelly and Bradshaw and still wants to explore a merger.

"I just want to find out what the truth is," Cohen said.

None of the other four other members in attendance on Monday expressed an interest in continuing the merger discussion, putting the focus on the potential school cuts for the 2011-12 school year.

The committee reviewed the principals' recommendation to eliminate: 109 attendance clerks and 50 media center clerks in the elementary schools; 33 attendance clerks and 33 media clerks in middle schools; and 23 secretary clerks and 41 media clerks in high schools.

In schools, media center is the term used for the library. Clerks assist media specialists in managing the centers.

Also, all schools would cut funding by 10 percent for supplements awarded to department chairpersons and teachers who work with after-school clubs. Schools also would drop from the annual district calendar four extra working days for elementary school assistant principals and two extra working days for secondary school guidance counselors.

All of these proposed changes would result in $9.8 million in savings — reducing a significant portion of the school district's projected $30 million to $50 million operating budget shortfall, Chief Financial Officer Michael Burke said.

The shortfall is based on cuts in the pending state education budget and rising local school district costs, such as health insurance and diesel fuel. The administration also has set aside $8.4 million in raises for about half of the district's 12,000 teachers.

Charged with the task of reducing spending, principals made their recommendations over several other less-desirable options. They rejected closing schools with small enrollments; eliminating bus transportation for students in magnet/choice school programs; unpaid furloughs for teachers; and other actions.

The clerks aren't the only employees in jeopardy. Superintendent Bill Malone previously announced the elimination of 244 school hallway and cafeteria monitor positions, to save $6.4 million. There also will be a drop of 10 workers in the alternative education division, due to shrinking enrollments, saving $510,000.

All of these school-based reductions total $17 million, representing 1.6 percent of an estimated $1.1 billion operating budget.

Still more district-level job cuts are to be revealed next week as part of $21 million in department budget reductions.

Principals were to notify all affected clerks by the end of school on Monday.

Still, hope remains that most of them will be able to continue employment with the district through different positions. Similar efforts will be made to reassign the monitors, but officials have said layoffs are likely to result from all of the job cuts.

"We're going to see if we can find a home for the people in these jobs," Burke said. "At this point I don't know how many people we'll be able to successfully place in the district."

The proposed school and department cuts total about $38 million, putting the district in range of a balanced budget.

Other big savings — if the shortfall winds up being closer to $50 million — involve the transfer of $5 million in copier leasing to the capital projects budget, and $4 million from an untapped reserve for class-size reduction, Burke told the committee.

The School Board, which will review these proposals during the next two months, is scheduled to tentatively approve the district's new budget on July 27. or 561-243-6642,0,3044651.story

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