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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Cars honk, teachers whoop, message sent



teacher_rally.Hundreds of Pinellas and Pasco teachers rallied Friday against education spending cuts and sweeping changes to the teaching profession that the Florida Legislature appears poised to pass.

"We're all just frustrated," Linda Christian, an art teacher at Belcher Elementary in Pinellas, told The Gradebook. "We are not the enemy. We're there for the children."

By 4:30 p.m., Christian and more than 100 sign-waving teachers and supporters were at the corner of Ulmerton Road and 66th Street in Largo. By 5:15 p.m., at least twice that many had lined the corners at Tyrone Boulevard and 66th Street in St. Petersburg. At both sites there was a jolly cacophany of cars honking in support and teachers cheering in response.

More than 100 Pinellas teachers were also waving signs and wearing red at N. McMullen Both Road and State Road 580 in Clearwater. (The photo, by Times photographer Douglas R. Clifford, shows Countryside High School science teacher Mike Cato jogging through a crowd of teachers carrying an American flag.)

In Pasco, about 1,000 teachers signed up in advance to attend one of three rallying spots. Even before the official 4 p.m. start, dozens dressed in red arrived in the parking lot outside state Rep. Will Weatherford's Wesley Chapel office, protest signs in hand.

"Stabbing us in our professional hearts," one sign proclaimed. "Tell legislators NO NO NO."

By 4:30 p.m. more than 100 had shown up, with cars still entering the parking lot as elementary school teachers got off duty.

Teachers said they were willing to accept the idea of new performance based evaluations. "As a teacher, you just have to be flexible and take it as it comes," West Zephyrhills Elementary third grade teacher Kristi Dorough said. They were, however, upset with some of the specific content of the proposed legislation.

"Some teachers aren't going to want to work with the students who are at risk," Pasco High math teacher Jacqueline Watson said.  "We are already hearing it."

More coverage here.

- Ron Matus and Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writers

[Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 7:41pm]


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