Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the top stories in Pasco County during 2013 as selected by The Pasco Tribune staff.
LAND O’ LAKES — It was a new year, but budget-wise the Pasco County school district encountered some of the same challenges in 2013 that had haunted it since the nation sank into a recession several years ago.
Heading into budget-planning time, the school board faced a revenue shortfall of more than $20 million. That meant, once again, the school district would need to figure out ways to slash spending. Bit by bit, ideas surfaced.
Few cost-saving efforts proved as controversial, though, as Superintendent Kurt Browning’s proposal to merge three jobs – media specialist, instructional technology specialist and literacy coach – into one position.
Media specialists were especially outspoken in their opposition. They argued their duties went far beyond helping students check out books from the school library. They collaborated on lessons with classroom teachers, helped inspire reluctant readers and gave both students and teachers instruction on how to best use technology for research, among other tasks.
Media specialists and their supporters – teachers, parents and students – showed up in droves at two school board meetings, urging the board to reject Browning’s plan and questioning how one person could adequately handle responsibilities once assigned to three.
Ultimately, the change happened despite the outcry.
The new position was called information and communication technology coach, or ICT coach. One coach was assigned to each of the district’s 80 schools. In addition, some of the technology troubleshooting duties once handled by technology specialists are now handed off to a newly created team of eight network technicians.
Although the three-job merger saved the district money by eliminating positions, Browning said he was able to avoid layoffs through attrition and retirements. Some of the media specialists, for example, became classroom teachers.
Months later, Browning said he still considered the move the right thing to do. The ICT coach position puts a heavy emphasis on helping students and teachers use technology, and the superintendent said that’s key in today’s classroom.