Janssen: Melrose/UF partnership plans not postponed, will go before school board
Frankly, we're confused about what is or isn't going on with Melrose Elementary and its budding partnership with the University of Florida. But Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen told school board members this week that reports of the project being halted are "inaccurate." She offered program details and said the only thing being put on hold for a year is re-interviewing staff. She also said the proposal will go before the board for approval at the July 26 meeting.
Janssen's emails to board members on this matter are included below. But first, some quick background on what we thought we heard.
Janssen told The Gradebook two weeks ago that complete implementation of the Melrose/UF venture was being delayed and cited several factors, including a new principal, the involvement of now-retired regional superintendent Carol Thomas and the anxiety of first- and second-year teachers. She said, "We're really going to use this year as a planning year." She said details had not been worked out. She said regional superintendent Rita Vasquez and the new principal need "an opportunity to develop the plan and work with the teachers." She said the proposal didn't need to go before the board for approval.
Janssen also told The Gradebook she was still proceeding with parts of the plan for the coming year, including a part-time professor in residence and a chance for more teachers at the school to participate in the master's degree program offered by UF's Lastinger Center. Those details were not included in the June 9 story about Melrose. They should have been. But Janssen also suggested she was downsizing her plan substantially, using the term "slow rollout" and saying "we're going to have to do a mini-roll" and "it's not going to be a full-blown model."
Melrose Principal Oscar Robinson apparently got that impression, too. He told The Gradebook, shortly after Janssen and other top officials visited the school two weeks ago, that, "Basically, they said they're going to take a year to plan."
Here's the first email Janssen sent to board members about Melrose, on June 20:
Dear board members,
I trust that you had a restful weekend. As we prepare for another busy week, I’d like to take a moment to clarify my vision for Melrose Elementary. I know that you share my strong conviction that we must continue to move forward to meet the needs of the students at this struggling school and that there simply is no time to waste.
To begin, reports that plans for the Melrose project have been halted are inaccurate. I continue to work closely with my administrative team, including Region 4 Superintendent Rita Vasquez, to create a partnership with the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning to transform Melrose into our district’s first professional learning school.
Here is what that means.
Melrose will receive for the 2011-12 school year targeted resources that will assist administrators and teachers in working together to improve their practice by participating in multiple job-embedded professional development opportunities. Specifically:
· A half-time UF Professor in Residence will work on site.
· The Teacher Leadership in School Improvement (TLSI) master’s degree program will be expanded.
· Demonstration classrooms with Master Teachers will be developed featuring effective instructional strategies for other teachers to study.
· Communities of Practice will be developed within the school to support teacher learning and growth.
· We will work with UF interns to keep those highly trained teachers in our district after they complete their university programs.
Only one facet of the program will be postponed until next year: the decision to re-interview staff. The re-interviewing process will be delayed until next year to allow those teachers currently assigned to Melrose to experience the new culture that will evolve as a result of these changes. Among the hallmarks of that new culture will be scholarly congeniality, teacher leadership, a sense of empowerment for educators as they grow as professionals, and high expectations of administrators, teachers, support staff and students.
It is my belief that this initiative will lead Melrose educators to greater job satisfaction which will translate to higher performance, leading to increased student achievement. I look forward to sharing more details with you as we move forward.
Here's the second email, on June 21:
I neglected to say that the proposal for Melrose Elementary Professional Learning School will be brought to you in an agenda item at the next board meeting (July 26).
Sorry I neglected to mention that in my previous email.
Sent from my iPhone