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School board meets among looming job cuts

Petition calls for Hillsborough superintendent to resign
Hillsborough County school bus
Posted at 4:50 PM, Apr 13, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Some Hillsborough County parents are so upset with the latest cuts to schools, they created a petition Tuesday morning calling for Superintendent Addison Davis and Deputy Superintendent Micheal Kemp both to resign.

“I don’t believe that either of these members of the Hillsborough County Public School administration are bad people. I think that they have the best of intentions. But it’s not working,” said Kas Miller, a parent who helped create the petition posted on change.org.

The list of cuts at each school is long. A thousand positions in all.

“I think everybody, for even very selfish reasons, should probably be a little more invested in this but for me, it’s because I have two kids and one is a special needs child,” Miller said.

High schools, which already have the most staff, are losing the most jobs.

Lennard High leads the way with 26 positions cut, but French and forensics science are the only two programs fully lost. Riverview is next with 20 positions cut.

Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, who leads the Hillsborough County teacher’s union, says adjusting positions based on the numbers the district had during COVID is shortsighted.

“If all the kids come back to particular sites where for instance they were homeschooling this year, we will definitely not have enough teachers,” she said.

Many think music and art are already underfunded, and the concern is growing for those programs.

Dr. Chris Garvin is Dean of the College of the Arts at USF and says our society doesn’t see the arts as vital.

“We see them as the thing we do after we get off of work. I think that’s a mistake because it’s the stuff that’s guiding how we work all the time,” said Garvin.

Garvin says it’s often tough to see how learning an instrument for example translates to real-world jobs.

“But when someone learns to play music, they learn to play an ensemble, they learn to work with people. They learn to be part of a team, and they learn to overcome a lot of adversity. They practice hard and they work for these things. And those are the soft skills that everyone wants to hire,” he said.

The school district says they aren’t cutting programs, just moving positions around to meet demand.

They also said the number of positions cut doesn’t necessarily translate to people. Those who are cut could be hired back to teach different subjects or at different schools where they are needed.

The district says they are making the cuts to control spending formulas that weren’t being followed until now.

“The problem is we have the funding at Tallahassee. The CARES Act provided money for this very reason and yet Mr. Davis and Mr. Kemp aren’t going to Tallahassee requesting it,” said Miller.

The teachers union says they’ve asked for a commitment from the district saying everyone will have a job even if it’s at a different school, but they say they have yet to get that commitment.