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Board wants budget alternatives

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By Mike Wright

 

INVERNESS — Citrus County School Board members are planning a closer look at the budget in hopes of saving elementary- and middle-school media specialists.

On the block instead could be the Renaissance Center, which houses about 90 students with behavioral problems at what officials acknowledge is a high cost.

Board members Pat Deutschman and Thomas Kennedy said want to see alternatives to an administrative proposal that would eliminate media specialists in middle and elementary schools. Specialists would move into vacant teaching positions and none would lose their jobs.

The board set a 9 a.m. workshop Thursday, May 23, to find ways to cut about $2 million from the 2013-14 budget. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kenny Blocker said eliminating the media specialist positions would save $500,000.

Media specialists who attended Tuesday’s board meeting said it would be a mistake to cut their positions.

“It would negatively impact every single student in our schools,” said Kathryn Locke, Crystal River Middle School media specialist. “I know eliminating our position is an easy thing to do. Is it the right thing to do? Not if you care about the education of our children.”

Blocker’s other budget recommendations include eliminating four teachers and three aides from the Renaissance Center. Those employees would be placed in vacant positions elsewhere in the district.

Kennedy said the district could save media specialists if it instead created “mini Renaissance Centers” at the three high schools.

Both Kennedy and Deutschman said the district needs to take a close budget look at Renaissance.

They also reiterated that budget cuts should have the least impact on student achievement.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.