HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - In a one-on-one interview with CW44 News, Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis addressed the future of the district and job cuts due to financial setbacks. After highlighting a one hundred million dollar deficit, among other ongoing funding issues, district officials are looking to cut more than a thousand positions.
"In Hillsborough County, our expenditures have outweighed what we actually generate in revenue," said Superintendent Addison Davis. In his first year as a top leader of one of the nation's largest school districts, Superintendent Davis is evaluating district needs and upcoming changes. "We've done everything that we can to cut at district level, to cut the current budget at our district level, to cut.. you know, overtime, to be able to look at vendor contracts," said Superintendent Davis.
As the district enters the final phase of making staffing adjustments, Superintendent Davis first points to the financial hardships over the last 13 months since taking office in March of 2020. "We were $32 million in a deficit in our fund balance then we identified another $40 million. We had to make some really tough decisions in September, October of cutting over 600 positions. Later in the year, and we found ourselves once again $100 million in a deficit from historical practices that were implemented and they just caught up to us now," he explained.
Davis says changes to classrooms, support staff and leadership are necessary to make certain the district hits the threshold required by the state. "We usually hire around 1,100 to 1,200 teachers a year. We're going to try to protect every one of the individuals that we can in those positions." He says $54 million in federal funding has gone to PPE, learning solutions and resources like laptops for students during the pandemic to avoid learning setbacks. "That money has been exhausted. As we transition, there's another pot of money from the CARES II Act money that we're supposed to get, around $180 million. That money we haven't gotten yet. And then there's CARES Act III which could be over $400 million." All of which will support COVID-related opportunity but none of which will be used for recurring dollars. "We are not going to use it to place on people because, openly, this is why we're in this current situation we're in. That money is going to go away and when that money goes away, we don't want to be in the same situation with a significant number of employees that we can't afford." But that the students' educational experience won't be one of those deductions. "More students this year that were one or two or more years behind, educationally, in literacy and mathematics."
In a message for teachers, support staff and district leaders, Superintendent Davis says he's grateful for their poise in returning to classrooms during the pandemic.
"They've been heroic. Educators were openly asked to come back when the entire state was closed and my hat's off to them." And asks for Hillsborough County parents to be patient as these changes begin to take effect. "Understand where we are from a financial perspective. Understand that these inherited practices have forced us to make some very difficult and hard decisions. Once these cuts are finalized, we will only get better as we will focus on strengthening the core and instructional process for our children."
The board's budget plan is set for Thursday, April 13th. The first order of business, he says, is to address the achievement gap by expanding summer school in multiple facets this year due to the learning loss suffered during the pandemic.
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