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Changes to special projects office in Pinellas



Following a story and an editorial in the Times last week about Pinellas County Schools fumbling a $7.2 million federal grant from the Teacher Incentive Fund, the school district's special projects office has announced a few changes.

In a memo to the School Board Friday, Lori Matway, associate superintendent for student and community services, said the department will give presentations to the district's leadership team about all large grants. The School Board also will hear presentations about large grants, if the leadership team signs off on it.

Executive summaries and project evaluations also will be given to the board at workshops or via the district's "Friday update." (A weekly memo with updates on topics of interest to the board.) The grants website also will be kept updated and will include "short descriptions and summaries for major district grants."

Matway oversees the special projects office, but she just joined the district.

Her memo goes on to "clarify" some information about the Teacher Incentive Fund for board members. (Most of the information was in the Times story, but some of it is in greater detail.) She says that no money from the grant has been "misappropriated" and it remains with the district, ready to be given out to teachers.

Below is a copy of the memo:


"Date: October 4, 2013

To: School Board Members

From: Lori Matway

Associate Superintendent Student & Community Services

RE: Special Projects Department

As the Associate Superintendent for Student and Community Services, with the responsibility of overseeing the Special Projects Department, I felt it was imperative to share with you some procedural changes in this department. During my first week in this position, I meet with the members of the Special Projects Department to establish our way of work. At that time, we determined that grants will be aligned to the District Strategic Plan and support the scaling up of existing programs or be a research-based and vetted new program. A step that will be added to our screening process will include a presentation to the Leadership Team for all large grants, and following their approval, a presentation to the School Board Members during a Board Workshop. 

My intent is to ensure that stakeholders are educated on the value of the grants, and understand the obligations of the District and all others that might be impacted by the implementation of the grants. 

In addition the grant department will provide executive summaries and project evaluations to the board at workshops or through the Friday update. I will also ensure that the grant website is up to date and include short descriptions and summaries for major district grants. I also wanted to provide some clarification on the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant following the article and editorial in the Tampa Bay Times this week. At its inception, the TIF grant was designed to recognize teachers and administrators at four local middle schools who are making a difference in the lives of their students and taking on additional leadership opportunities. While the name Teacher Incentive Fund seems to indicate that all grant dollars would be awarded to educators, this program was actually designed as a pilot program that also required new equipment and infrastructure, including data management systems, newly created professional development programs and a comprehensive communication strategy to ensure teachers, principals, parents and community members were able to provide feedback and by in about the program.

To be eligible for the performance component, teachers must be rated effective or highly effective using the District’s evaluation methodology. Last year’s payouts were awarded, in tiers, to the top 20 percent of educators at each participating school. The overall grant and payout structure was developed and negotiated with the Pinellas County Teacher Association (PCTA). The tiers involve a $5,000 award for the top 5 percent, $3,000 for the top 6-15 percent and $1,000 for the top 16-20 percent. Instead of one lump sum payment of $9,000 the article references, the tier system was used to reward more instructional staff. This year, the District is working, in cooperation with the Pinellas County Teacher Association, to expand the tiers and increase eligibility to the top 25 percent of educators at each school.

Last year, teachers were also able to participate in the incentive pay opportunity by becoming a rubric expert and/or an assessment item developer. Once again, we heard feedback from inside and outside of the District and, effective last summer, expanded the incentive pay portion of the grant to encompass more professional development and leadership opportunities. To date, nearly $200,000 in performance and incentive pay have been distributed to the participating schools through the TIF program, and dollars that were allocated to the bonuses have not been misappropriated – they remain with the District, ready to be awarded to qualifying educators. Over 1.5 million dollars of the funds identified as administrative costs were actually technology expenditures for DecisionEd and test bank data systems.

While the TIF program has experienced modifications since its initial plan due to changes at the District and state levels regarding teacher evaluations, as well as new leadership at two of the participating schools, all of the dollars spent to date are within the scope of the grant requirements and we will continue to collaborate with the PCTA to expand the scope of the program. As we approach our second TIF payout this winter, we will continue to have an open dialogue with teachers, administrators and other stakeholders about the program and look forward to expanding the program to reward more deserving educators. 

I look forward to these and other system improvements in our grant department as we all strive to improve our overall district.

Thank you for your continued support."

[Last modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 3:21pm]


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