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Hillsborough teachers union pushing back against likely cuts to 92 instructional positions

HCTA has filed official grievance
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Posted at 5:04 AM, Apr 20, 2021

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is now pushing back against the most recent round of school district budget cuts, saying the district violated the contracts of dozens of teachers. They're now working to have them reinstated this fall.

This past Friday, the Hillsborough County School District sent out an email to more than a hundred instructors saying it's unlikely they will have a job next school year because of budget problems.

CONTINUING COVERAGE | Dozens of educators told they may not return next year amid Hillsborough County School budget issues

The email went out to some of the district's newest teachers hired in 2019 or 2020, according to Hillsborough County Schools.

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The school district now says 92 teachers are impacted in this latest round of cuts. That's 12 less than the district first reported.

Cece Gaddy teaches physical education in Hillsborough County Schools and says she was already given a schedule and a placement for next year when got the email notifying her that she was unlikely to have a position next year.

"It just said, 'Dear educator',' Gaddy said. "There wasn't even any type of personal feeling with the email."

The cuts, catching not just the teachers, but also the school board members, by surprise.

"Now I have to teach the rest of the school year this year, knowing that as a possibility, I won't be here," Gaddy said. "It is very hard, especially when the kids are asking."

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers' Association says they believe the district violated the contracts of the now 92 teachers like Gaddy.

According to Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, the executive director of HCTA, the district did not notify the instructors that their positions were likely eliminated by the correct date. Baxter-Jenkins said administrators would have had to notify educators by April 9, which is when teacher assignments were distributed.

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HCTA provided this district newsletter to ABC Action News listing "important dates" for the 2020-2021 school year. They are using documents like this to bolster their case that teachers should have been notified by 4/09/21, when teacher assignments were distributed.

In an effort to stop these cuts from happening, HCTA has now filed a grievance and it's headed to a hearing between the union and the district.

"Our contract does provide an opportunity to lay people off," Baxter-Jenkins said. "I mean, it happens in budget circumstances. So we do have layoff language, none of which was followed either and so we feel our cases very strong."

Baxter-Jenkins also said the district should have handled this round of cuts differently.

"When people are treated with dignity and respect, that is a free commodity and it wasn't given here," Baxter-Jenkins said.

ABC Action News reached out to the district. In a statement, they said, "the district respects the grievance process and we want to let it move forward."

The district is working to save about $80M and make payroll this summer. These 92 teacher position cuts are a part of an overall round of around 1,000 positions being eliminated district-wide. However, that number has dropped slightly over the past week. The majority of those jobs eliminated were announced earlier this month.

Hundreds of those teachers are currently looking for other open jobs within the school district in what's called the "transfer period."

This excludes the 92 new teachers who just learned of their positions being eliminated. They are not eligible for the transfer period because of their hiring pool status and/or certification.

For any instructor who is not able to secure their own new position in the transfer period, they will be sent into the hiring pool and the district will reassign them to a new position.

District leaders said they are still working to see how many of the 92 teachers can be hired back based on the number of instructors who retire or resign.

In response to the cuts, Superintendent Addison Davis released this statement:

“I was hired to transform Hillsborough County. And in that process, we had to make some very difficult decisions. We changed instructional focus. We changed instructional frameworks. We’ve increased accountability. I led this district through a pandemic, successfully. And on top of that I’m facing budget downfalls over and over again. And while you’re cutting 2,000 people it’s hard to build relationships. It’s hard to build trust but I am committed to working to improve.”
Superintendent Addison Davis, Hillsborough County School District