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Hillsborough County teachers relying on crowdsourcing to restock classrooms following budget cuts

Posted at 3:57 AM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 11:23:50-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Some Hillsborough County teachers say they are struggling to stock their new classrooms after they were transferred due to district-wide budget cuts. Many are now turning to crowdsourcing efforts on Facebook for help on extra items they would normally spend weeks gathering and raising money for to prepare their classrooms.

The Adopt a Hillsborough Teacher Facebook page was started before the start of the 2020-2021 school year. It has helped hundreds of teachers get supplies for their classrooms. There are now more than 13,000 followers.

HELP A TEACHER | Adopt a Hillsborough Teacher Facebook Page

The moderators and creators of the page, Brooke Elkins, a parent, and Lorra Gilman, a parent and certified teacher, were set to archive the page after a drop in activity and restart it again next year.

Soon after the Hillsborough County School Board moved forward with district-wide budget cuts, they saw more teachers asking for help once again.

CONTINUING COVERAGE | Hillsborough teachers start new classes Monday following district budget cuts

The budget reductions included the elimination of hundreds of instructional positions and others cut completely.

Hundreds of teachers were then reassigned and forced to switch grade levels or subjects altogether.

Many were transferred to different schools and roles throughout the district and are now rebuilding classrooms from scratch, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process.

"There's nobody out there saying, 'Oh, I'm sorry, did you just switch classrooms?'" Gilman said.

"We should care about our schools," Elkins said. "We should care about what our kids are facing what our teachers are facing."

One example on the page is a teacher who saw her brick-and-mortar algebra positions eliminated. She said she was then sent to the pool and reassigned to teach Hillsborough Virtual School.

"I realized that to be successful, there are a few things I'm going to need to be full-time virtual with a true virtual school," she posted on the page. "As many others have done, I'm posting the link to my list, in the event that anyone is able to "adopt" me to be the best teacher I can be for my new students."

This instructor went on to ask for things like a green screen and a printer. Others are asking for items like pencils, paper, ink for printing documents for virtual learners, and more.

District leaders say regional superintendents are spending the week going to visit each teacher who was transferred through the pool and making sure they feel welcomed and have the supplies and support they need to teach in their new environments.

In addition to being a place where teachers are posting requests for classroom items, it is also where they can receive support as they face the changes due to district budget cuts.

"I get so many messages from teachers who have said, like, this is the bright spot in their week," Elkins said. "Whether it's the inspirational message that somebody has posted, whether it's just another teacher sharing."

Elkins has also created threads within the page for teachers to post their concerns and a separate one for district parents.

"It's painful, just to see how many educators are hurting," Elkins said. "They're not being heard."