Hillsborough Superintendent, school board vow to keep arts amid pandemic, but admit cuts have to be made

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Dozens gathered outside Hillsborough County School Board headquarters Tuesday afternoon. The sound of music could be heard as teachers and parents stood with signs as students sang.

Many teachers say they’re shocked, saddened and angry amid rumblings that staff positions will be cut as the district faces a budgetary shortfall.

Superintendent Addison Davis began the school board meeting by assuring everyone involved that the arts and music programs will not be cut.

However, as he discussed budget issues with the board, he admitted, “We’re going to have be creative.”

Board members, themselves, also stated that these are challenging times with the budget and a pandemic, adding, “Doing nothing is not an option.”

According to the school board, the district is not in the red right now, and 71 million dollars could be “recouped” if changes are made.

In sharp contrast, if changes are not made, the superintendent says the district could end up owing the state 56 million dollars by February 2021.

Teachers and parents say they’re left scrambling at this point. During public comment, one parent said, “How can you justify staff cuts when teachers are suffering?”

Dartanya Hausburg’s son, Gavin, is part of the Eisenhower Middle School chorus and both dad and son want the program to stay.

“We’re at a point right now where education is paramount for all of our children, every child,” Hausburg said. “The idea that they would cut away some of those programs, is not in the kids’ best interest.

Like many parents, he is certainly paying attention to looming cuts, from classroom teacher positions to programs like arts and music.

8 On Your Side was at a budget meeting Tuesday morning where Superintendent Addison Davis and school board members addressed the district budget.

Their message: Do not worry.

“It’s my desire as board member that we leave the core essence of education alone. Let’s stay out of our classrooms. Let’s leave our teachers where they are because they make the most impact on our students,” said board member Tamara Shamburger.

For now, that appears to be the plan.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a crisis within the Hillsborough County School District.

There are 7,000 fewer students enrolled in the district this school year, meaning access to less state funding.

The district is also over budget, Davis said.

Plus, 400 vacant staff positions will not be filled in the foreseeable future.

“But we are gonna have to make some cuts. I don’t know what that numbers is, but we’ve started with vacancies and vacancies that were funded, we’ve got to start there first,” said school board chairman Steve Cona.

There is currently a petition to prevent cuts in Hillsborough County Schools. You can sign that petition here.

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