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Manatee County schools superintendent sworn in

BRADENTON — After months of anticipation, and his first week on the job, Tim McGonegal was finally sworn in as Manatee schools’ new superintendent Monday night.

Before Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube read McGonegal’s oath of service during a school board meeting, he congratulated the latter heartily.

“I am pleased that Tim is the one who got this appointment,” he said.

McGonegal’s family and a former coworker, Highlands County Schools Superintendent Wally Cox, attended the short ceremony.

After the swearing in, the packed meeting room gave the new superintendent a standing ovation.

McGonegal thanked everyone, and paid tribute to Cox and former Manatee schools superintendent Roger Dearing.

He then reiterated some of his pledges to board members, including maintaining the district’s strategic plan called EdVantage, improving the district’s troubled high schools and continuing its commitment to an open government.

“I want the teachers and the students leading the parade,” he said as he wrapped up his speech. “I want to be the guy following the elephants.”

Later in the meeting, McGonegal asked the board to approve a policy change that would tighten scrutiny on substitute employees.

The policy allows the superintendent to sack substitutes without board action, contains disciplinary procedures on how to deal with temporary staff who misbehave and requires that schools only use substitute teachers who are on an approved list.

The policy was the latest among others that center around substitute teachers that board members approved recently. They reduced the pay scale of substitutes. It will also take substitute teachers longer to reach long-term status, which brings a higher pay.

Because of budget cuts, the school district has opted to replace most retiring or resigning teachers with long-term substitutes to save money. Unlike full-time teachers, they receive lower pay and no benefits.

The move was intended to save existing teaching jobs.

“I was the one who recommended long-term subs over contract individuals, so that every contract teacher in this county has a job next year,” said Barbara Harvey, school board member. “We made a commitment to all our staff that they will have a job.”

As Manatee continues to slash its operating budget due to state sales tax revenue shortfall, teaching jobs have become scarce. That’s evident in the substitute teachers list that district keeps, which has doubled to 1,300 people within a year.

McGonegal noted the irony.

“Because of the economy, we are getting very good substitutes,” McGonegal said.