Superintendent Addison Davis says Hillsborough County Public Schools is facing a $100 million financial deficit.
10 Tampa Bay | by Liz Crawford | April 6, 2021
TAMPA, Fla. — Nothing could have prepared Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis for his first year with the seventh-largest school district in the country.
He started in March 2020 and after about one week on the job, schools closed their doors indefinitely as the global pandemic crippled our society.
While online learning, mental health, and food security became the urgent need, Davis also had to deal with a looming financial crisis. He says after about seven months on the job, the district could barely make payroll because of the growing financial deficit.
By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Davis says the district is $100 million in the hole.
In a one-on-one interview, 10 Tampa Bay discussed various topics with Superintendent Davis. Here are his responses.
Davis: We found ourselves over $100 million in a financial deficit as we close the school year. With that said, we have to make adjustments. Over a thousand positions will be openly, cut in Hillsborough County.
Davis says the district is committed to ensuring the student experience will not be sacrificed and principals will continue to evaluate the needs of their students and staff so the district can make adjustments when needed.
Staff impacted by the cuts will know by the end of this week.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Davis: First and foremost, the state of Florida ranks 43rd out of the nation related to how they fund education. We have to rally together as a community and continue to ask our local legislators and Tallahassee for more money on the basic student allocation.
Beyond that, Davis says he inherited a district that has made long-term decisions like hiring staff and increasing salaries based on short-term grants.
Davis: As we’ve lost between 2,500 and 3,000 students annually to charter schools, home schools, private schools, those students when they go and select another choice, when we lose those students, we lose funding. We have not made the necessary correction in our staffing model and over the years, that’s openly caught up to us.
HOW WILL YOU USE THE FEDERAL STIMULUS MONEY?
Davis says the money from CARES I, the first stimulus package is already accounted for. The district used $54 million for personal protective equipment, hardware addressing the digital divide, connectivity materials, and mental health resources.
Hillsborough County Schools still hasn’t received the $180 million they’re supposed to get from CARES II, and Davis believes they might get the money from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) before they get CARES II.
Hillsborough will get close to $500 million from the ARP. He already knows he’s using some of that money to keep mental health counselors on staff.
He also knows that if he makes hiring decisions based on the latest windfall from Washington, they’ll eventually face the same problems they’re seeing now.
Davis: We’ll be open about it. This is a two year grant, after that money is exhausted, the position is exhausted as well.
WILL MASKS BE REQUIRED NEXT SCHOOL YEAR?
Davis said it’s too early to tell and he doesn’t know exactly what school will look like in August.
DAVIS: As we get closer to the school year, we’ll make sure our community is engaged but we want to make sure our medical experts are helping us with that process.
WHY DID YOU TAKE YOUR MASK OFF AT THE SUPER BOWL PARADE?
10 Tampa Bay cameras caught Addison Davis with his mask off at the outdoor Super Bowl celebration in February following the Buccaneers boat parade.
Davis: If I had that 90 seconds back, 60 seconds back, I would have worn my mask the entire time. We make mistakes and we learn from them. We just get caught in moments, we learn from those moments and we become better.
BEST PART OF HILLSBOROUGH SCHOOLS
Davis: This is the first community where everyone, whether it’s civic leaders, sheriff’s office, chambers, rotaries, PTSA, school board members, teachers, CTA, everyone wants to work and understands the value of education. Everyone wants to work on behalf of this organization. That’s a blessing.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING HCPS
Davis: Right now, it’s financials. Putting in financial controls that have not been in place. Once they’re in place, we’ll have a solid foundation. Another is how to accelerate learning. Right now, we know the achievement gap is real. We know it’s been exasperated due to the pandemic. How do we use and leverage money and resources and time to have that connectivity with our students to make up the ground potentially loss?
When I put my head on the pillow at night, I’m awake thinking about, how do I save this position? How do I save this classroom? We’re going to get there. Just hard decisions have to be made. Once we get through them, we’ll all be able to lock arms and do really special things for children.
Photo: Credit 10 Tampa Bay