Superintendent Mills continues to defend recovery plan

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BRADENTON - The Manatee County School District is drumming up support for its financial recovery plan. Superintendent Rick Mills met with concerned patents Wednesday at the 3rd and final 'Soup with the Supe' -- but its wasn't all about the lunch.

"We're not very smart right now as a school district on how we're functioning," said Mills.

Mills addressed details from the transition team report and the recovery plan to get the district back on track. But, that plan has been highly criticized because it includes laying off 96 employees and about 200 teachers.

"They were so upset, particularly that Mr. Vickers was being let go; he teaches history.  They were very upset Ms. Sampson is being let go," said concerned parent Tammy Wankoff.

And the list of teachers go on, 189 so far and Wankoff says many of the teachers not being renewed were the best and brightest. "These teachers truly enjoy teaching and the kids actually learn something and want to be in these classes. There has to be some sort of evaluation plan that is somehow is equal.  If you have students putting together a petition save the teacher and parents calling about a teacher, re-evaluate that teacher!"

But the lay offs were not done based on the teacher's track records. According to the district guidelines the layoffs were based on the teachers contracts. Which means the teachers with one year contracts that were up, were the first to go.

"We have to follow our procedures and agreements in our union contracts when it comes to that," said Mills.

In addition to following the union guideline Mills says the decision to make lay offs was done because personnel is more than 84% of their overall budget.

Still the move was not made lightly.  "It just break my heat to be in a position to have to make those decisions," said Mills

The district says it will set aside $2 million to rehire teachers. 90 teachers are also expected to retire in the coming days -- so the district anticipates rehiring many of the laid-off teachers, in the next school year.