MANATEE -- Although his financial recovery plan includes 180 teacher layoffs, Rick Mills, superintendent of the Manatee County School district, told an audience at his "Soup with the Supe" on Wednesday that he plans to rehire some of those teachers in the fall.
While Mills has said he expects 1,000 fewer students to enroll in the fall, he said the district is still working to get accurate counts -- for both the number of students and the number of teachers the district will need.
Mills said it "breaks my heart" to lay off teachers, and there will be opportunities for some of them to get their jobs back in the next school year.
Mills said he expects about 80 district teaching positions to become available through attrition, as some staff relocates or retires.
"This is just an approximate number," Mills said. "We are still trying to get an accurate count."
All first-year teachers and all one-year contracts were non-renewed for next year, resulting in the 180 teacher layoffs.
Mills was adamant that he plans to re-hire teachers rather than turn to long-term substitutes.
Teachers who survived the layoffs will receive merit raises funded by the state this year.
"Of the $22 million from the state, about $8 million was earmarked for teacher pay increases," Mills said.
Mills plans to offer 2 percent salary increases to all those in non-teaching positions, except for senior staff.
Those raises will come from $21.9 million Mills expects to save through his financial recovery plan.
Mills said that he is com
mitted to salary increases beginning July 1, the start of the next budget year.
Mills said the raises will not be merit-based, but across the board for all employees not benefiting from the state-funded pay raises.
Wednesday was Mills' third "Soup with the Supe," and it marked his 75th day as superintendent.
There is still much to be done to get the school district into shape, Mills said.
"We are not smart with how we are functioning and serving our schools," Mills said. Adding that the district has relied too heavily on "idea of the month" thinking, rather than a strategic plan.
"This creates turbulence and turmoil for teachers on the other end of it," Mills said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081