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Hillsborough County teachers concerned over school readjustment process

Posted at 5:40 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 18:18:34-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Teacher readjustments in Hillsborough County Public Schools are leaving some employees frustrated and concerned for their jobs.

“While we still might all get a paycheck, it does feel like we’re losing our jobs,” said music teacher Ashley Gillespie.

Gillespie says she’s in her eighth year teaching with Hillsborough County. She said her job doesn’t seem like a job.

However, she says she learned that position may change.

“Because we lost so many students and we don’t have as many units, according to the district, it looks like I don’t need to be there for five days. I only need to be there four days,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie says she may now have to split her time between two schools. Music teacher Tonya O’Malley told ABC Action News she found out her position at both her schools was eliminated.

“I found out on Tuesday evening, and then in a week and a half, I will be at my new location and teaching, and I don’t know what that new location is,” said O’Malley. “I have no information regarding that at all.”

Hillsborough County Schools says this process happens every year after the 20 day count. Based on student enrollment in each class at each school, the district says teachers in classes with low enrollment will be shifted to another school where there are open positions.

The school district says this process isn’t exclusive to art and music positions, and schools will still have those programs. The district also stressed teachers in the readjustment process will still have jobs.

“Being able to move teachers from one school to another school to address that equity gap that allows us to make certain that we expose children to quality programs, quality initiatives, quality projects and allow them for that learning to take place,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. “Overall, what this also does, it allows us to do a lot of work-related to cleaning up unfilled positions and overstaffed positions to be able to help address the budget deficit that we’re currently in.”

Some teachers worry this means more work for them or other teachers and bigger classes for students. The district explained it will maintain proper class sizes which are mandated by the state.

“We’re so thankful for our teachers,” said Superintendent Davis. “We understand and we’re going to do everything we can to protect every one of our employees during this trying time, especially with the budget crisis that we’re facing every single day in Hillsborough County.”

Teachers tell ABC Action News morale is already low and right now may not be the right time for changes. While the district says nothing is finalized, some teachers fear the greater effect any changes could have on students.

“When you’ve stayed this long at a school and you have that relationship with the students and the teachers and you’re a part of the culture of the school, it’s just a little heartbreaking, ” said Gillespie.