Parents present petition to Manatee County superintendent

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BRADENTON - Manatee County Schools say that cutting scores of teachers may be the only way to prevent the state from taking them over. But some parents insist there must be a better way to fix the district's budget mess.

"We are, at the district level, pretty much dysfunctional."  Rick Mills delivered a dire warning to people at a meet-and-greet event in Bradenton Wednesday. "We are on the fiscal cliff. If we don't take extreme measures, we are subject to being taken over by the state."

But that does not stop a parent, Karen Riley-Love, from delivering a petition with 1,300 signatures that asks the Manatee Schools superintendent to look for another way to cut costs.  "I was moved to start this petition because of my daughter's teacher. And I think everyone should have that teacher in their life that's made a huge impact on them. And these highly effective teachers can't be lost."

But more than 180, including Riley-Love's daughter's 4th grade teacher at Anna Maria Elementary, will be lost, under the district's plan to correct a budget fiasco that came from years of bad accounting.

"I think a lot of the decisions that this superintendent has to make are going to be uncomfortable because of the degree of dysfunction that he's got to get us out of," says long-time school volunteer Richard Conard.

Yet, among the overspending, the district still has one of the higher class size averages in the state.  "I don't understand how if we paid fines for being over the class size, how can we have too many teachers?" say Riley-Love.

In the event called "Soup with the Supe" at Renaissance on 9th, Mills explained that schools have plenty of teachers, they're just poorly allocated.  "My plan is to use the fall period, September and October, to make adjustments in our classrooms to make sure we meet the state requirement in allocation."

Mills understands that he's got to bring the bad news, and it will leave a lot of people unhappy. Next Monday he will unveil specifics of his plan to fix the district's finances.