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New schools superintendent rallies staff, teachers

MANATEE — Teachers at Manatee High were receptive and optimistic after hearing new Superintendent Tim McGonegal’s pre-recorded speech Monday.

As an effort to kickoff his administration, McGonegal created a 45-minute video message that was screened simultaneously across the school district on a day set aside for teacher training.

Using “Believe in Manatee” as the battle cry, McGonegal talked about his administration and how he will handle impending budget cuts.

Teachers, aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries and even nurses at Manatee High were asked to attend and listen to his speech Monday.

Most teachers did not mind that McGonegal, a certified public accountant, has never taught.

“I don’t see that as a handicap,” said Bob Gosling, a teacher. “Maybe they need someone who is more knowledgeable about money.”

Robin Thompson, Manatee High’s reading coach, was glad McGonegal talked about his lack of teaching experience.

“I appreciate the fact he was willing to address that,” she said.

Long-time teacher Linda Boone said some teachers were concerned at first at McGonegal’s close relationship with former Superintendent Roger Dearing.

“He is planning on a more transparent administration,” she said. “He recognizes some of the negative feelings between teachers and the former superintendent.”

“He seems pretty sincere,” her co-worker Linda Van Metre said.

McGonegal, who visited numerous schools Monday morning, said he is aware of the employees’ concerns over the district’s finances, which could result in another round of pay or job cuts among other things.

“There’s a high anxiety level about the budget. ... People want to know about the budget,” McGonegal said. “I wish we can give them answer about that.”

He vows to do his best.

In the next several weeks, McGonegal plans to assemble a speakers bureau and an interactive Web site about the district’s budget cutting process so officials can gather public input on the proposed cuts. So far, administrators have identified $30 million worth of items that could be slashed, and they anticipate at least $21 million in cuts in the next school year.

Regardless of the bleak months ahead, McGonegal said he thinks employees have appreciated his efforts to reach out to them so far.

“I think people are, overall, very optimistic despite so many uncertainties out there,” he said.