Avossa to cut 58 jobs, direct $5 million more to poorest schools

Robert Avossa, Superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County, speaks to members of the media about the bus situation in a press conference Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa wants to steer an extra $4.5 million a year to the county’s poorest public schools by slashing nearly 60 jobs in the school district’s administrative bureaucracy.

In a plan to be formally announced this afternoon, Avossa will call for the elimination of 58 positions in the school district’s regional offices, reducing their staffs by more than half and eliminating what he called “redundancy built into the system.”

The resulting savings would then be shifted to the schools with the poorest student populations, where principals would have greater discretion to use the money to tackle their schools’ particular needs, Avossa said.

The poorest 66 schools would receive an extra $100 per student, while another 49 schools with high numbers of poor students would win an extra $50 per child.

All told, Avossa said that those schools would receive an extra $5.3 million a year, as a result of the restructuring and related funding shifts.

The proposal, which will be considered by the school board today, is the first of what are expected to be several reforms to the public school system’s operations as Avossa works with a consulting firm to identify inefficiencies in the school district’s $2.3 billion budget.

The overhaul of the regional offices, which would take effect in July, would require all 101 employees in those offices to reapply for new positions.

Many will be rehired into the 43 jobs that will remain, Avossa said. But more than half – 58 in all – will have to find positions as teachers or school administrators or leave the school district.

Avossa said he expects all displaced employees will have a chance to apply for new positions in the school district, pointing out that county’s schools hire roughly 1,000 new teachers each year.

Meanwhile, the thinning of the middle-management ranks, he said, will allow the school district to operate more smoothly and allow more resources to directly aid students and teachers.

“It’s become abundantly clear that there’s been redundancy built into the system,” Avossa said.

The large-scale restructuring will require approval by the school board, which is set to consider the plan this afternoon.

The proposal was not added to the school board’s agenda until just hours before the meeting, an unusual move. Avossa said officials rushed to place the plan on the board’s agenda at the last minute to allow as much time as possible for affected employees to begin applying for the newly created positions.

Currently, the school district’s five regional offices – technically called “area offices” – help to manage the county’s roughly 185 district-run public schools, which educate more than 165,000 students and comprise the 11th or 12th largest public school system in the nation.

Each area office is responsible for between 30 and 38 schools and is overseen by an area superintendent and a staff of about 18 managers and specialists, records show.

Separate, three “transformation directors” with their own staffs provide additional supervision and support to the county’s most troubled schools.

Combined, the regional and transformation offices cost the school district more than $9 million a year to operate.

Under Avossa’s proposal, the five regional offices would be reduced to four, with direct supervision of the schools split between regional superintendents and subordinate teams of “instructional superintendents.”

Three transformation-director positions would be eliminated entirely, their responsibilities assumed by the regional superintendents. Also eliminated: 38 area team specialist positions, 11 area resource teacher positions and eight administrative assistant positions.

The net savings to the school district would be $4.5 million, according to a school district report.

Avossa said that that money would be pumped into the budgets of the county’s poorest schools, the ones which qualify for extra federal funding because the portion of poor students that they teach is so high.

Principals would have broad discretion to use the money as they see fit, although they will still be constricted by federal regulations on how the money can be spent. In most cases, Avossa said, principals will likely hire extra teachers or specialists to support their students’ needs.

Avossa said that giving principals more flexibility will not only allow them to tailor their budgets to their schools’ specific needs, it will allow for a reduction of regional office positions dedicated largely to overseeing how resources were shared between schools.

“You essentially eliminate middle management just by pushing (those jobs) to the schools,” Avossa said.

Employees in the regional offices learned this week that they will have to apply for new jobs. Avossa said that he expects everyone will have the chance to compete for new positions.

“I’m not trying to put people on the street without jobs,” he said. “No one is going hungry.”

Avossa credited the overhaul to research conducted by Boston-based Education Resource Strategies, a non-profit education consulting firm that the school board hired in October to analyze the school district’s operations.

Avossa said he expects many more reforms to result from the company’s findings. But he argued that the $4.5 million in spending cuts proved that the money spent on the consultant’s work was already paying dividends.

“We never really understood how this money was being spent,” he said.

Study: Adderall abuse on the rise in 18-25 year-old set


Abuse of the drug Adderall, prescribed for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder or ADHD,  is growing dramatically in the young adult set and causing emergency room visits related to the drug to soar, according to a study released this week by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The findings published Tuesday in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry were summarized by Johns Hopkins news site the Hub this way (the bold is added):

The popular conception has been that Adderall abuse is most severe among older children and adolescents. But the Hopkins researchers found that 60 percent of non-medical Adderall use for ages 12 and up was happening among 18- to 25-year-olds.

In the study’s focus period from 2006 to 2011, researchers saw that non-prescribed use of Adderall by young adults went up by 67 percent and associated emergency room visits rose by 156 percent. Over the same period, regular treatment visits involving Adderall remained unchanged for this age group. The problem appears to be less severe with younger adolescents. For this age group, the study saw that treatment visits for Adderall declined during the six-year period, non-medical use remained stable, and emergency room visits declined by 54 percent.

For years now, health authorities have been warning that teens and young adults were turning to the stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin as a study drug to help them focus.

But the drugs can cause health problems, some as minor as stomach aches and headaches to whoppers like seizures, high blood pressure and heart problems in kids.

The Johns Hopkins researchers said the young adults, were getting their pills from relatives and friends with prescriptions. The problem appeared most significantly in the 18-to-25 year-old set.


UCF faces 2nd suit after hack exposed 63,000 Social Security numbers


UPDATE: University of Central Florida is now facing at least two lawsuits in the wake of the security breach that exposed more than 63,000 names and social security numbers belonging to students and staff, according to the Orlando Sentinel. A third suit has already been dismissed by a U.S. District Court, she reports.

The latest suit comes from a former student. The other was filed by the former manager of the men’s basketball team who claims his bank account was wiped out as a result.

The hack is under investigation by the FBI’s Jacksonville office.




University of Central Florida officials revealed Thursday that some 63,000 Social Security numbers and names of students and staff both former and current had been hacked.

University officials discovered the hack on Jan. 8, reporting it to authorities and launching an internal investigation then, but telling students in a letter from the school’s president dated today. (Feb. 4, 2016) Those whose information was compromised

Those whose information was compromised will be getting a letter by mail explaining ow to sign up for a year of free credit monitoring and identity-protection services, according to the announcement signed by President John C. Hitt.

According to the letter, the university is working with a national digital forensics firm. They report that the breach did not include credit card information, financial records, medical records or grades.

The university has set up a call center: 1-800-752-5527 that is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday to field questions. It has also created a web page devoted to the incident that included recommendations on protecting your identity.

“UCF will continue to work diligently to protect this important information from those who would break the law to get it,” Hitt wrote.

According to the post, more information on who was affected by the hack:

Based on our investigation, we believe the intrusion into the university’s computer network resulted in unauthorized access to certain personal information for two groups.

One group includes some current student-athletes, as well as some former student-athletes who last played for UCF in 2014-15. This group also includes some student staff members, such as managers, supporting UCF teams.

The second group includes current and former university employees in a category known as OPS, or Other Personal Services. Examples of positions in this category include undergraduate student employees (including those in work-study positions), graduate assistants, housing resident assistants, adjunct faculty instructors, student government leaders and faculty members who have been paid for dual compensation/overload (for example, teaching additional classes). If you are not sure of your employment category, you can check with your supervisor or your department’s human resources representative. Employees who previously held but do not currently hold OPS positions may be included.



Didn’t pass Alg 1 EOC (or the 10g FSA )? Here are your options



Update March 2017: The testing season is in full swing with Alg 1 testing possible in Palm Beach County from April 17 through May 12, 2017. Expect results in early June.

The Alg 1 end-of-course exam (EOC) is the only state-required EOC a student must pass to graduate. Students must also take EOCs in Geometry, Alg. 2, biology and US History. The scores must weigh 30 percent of the calculation of a course grade, but a passing score is not required. (Legislation this spring proposes to cut some EOCs, but any testing changes would not be in effect this year.)

The other must-pass test for graduation: 

The 10th grade FSA ELA – that’s Florida Standards Assessment in English language arts, is the other state-mandated test students must pass to graduate.

So, let’s say you don’t pass…


Didn’t pass the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam or the 10th grade English/language arts test? These are your alternatives:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given several times a year.

Algebra 1: Get a comparative score of 97 on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT mathematics assessment.

10 grade English/language arts:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given during the school year.

ELA: Get a concordant score of 430 on the SAT reading or 19 on the ACT reading.

Source: The Florida Department of Education.