BRADENTON, Fla. - Manatee County school employees who are sweating out the future of their jobs got unwelcome news Wednesday….in an unwelcome way.
The Manatee County School District has a huge budget crunch, in part because of unaccounted spending that led the previous superintendent to resign.
The new superintendent, Rick Mills, has tried to rebuild trust in the Manatee County School administration. But he served up some bad news Wednesday night -- with an automated phone call.
"I was surprised there was a robo-call. The information in the robo-call was not surprising," says Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association.
She says that the school board said on March 25th that it must cut 188 teacher and staff positions, and that Mills sent the recorded message in response to questions as non-renewal notices went out.
The call said, in part, "We must realign the staffing needs of our school district to be both fiscally sound and strategically appropriate. While attrition will account for part of the realignment, it will not count for all."
"I think the cuts are deeper than we expected them to be," says Barber. She says the officious language confused some employees, and the cold call offended some others – some of whom contacted ABC 7 by Facebook and email.
ABC 7 tried to contact Superintendent Mills throughout the day to see if he would add his perspective on this for us. A spokesperson said he was tied up, and by mid-afternoon, said that he would not do any interviews.
Barber doesn't blame Mills, and doesn't know how he could have delivered the bad news any better. "I don't see how, other than the method of communication, maybe." She says "I see him as the messenger only."
The district had to notify its non-teaching staff members by Wednesday if they had jobs for next year. The deadline to inform teachers whether they get renewed for another year is June 1st.
The fear over job security is great enough that one staffer assured of a job next year shared the contents of the robo-call with ABC 7, but would not go on camera or even agree to let us say her name.