Pinellas gives tentative yes to Race to the Top
Pinellas is in. At least for now.
After a lengthy discussion, the Pinellas School Board gave superintendent Julie Janssen the okay to sign a letter of intent for the district to participate in Florida's Race to the Top application.
Florida hopes to win up to $700 million from the federal grant -- a centerpiece of the Obama administration's school reform policies -- and Pinellas could get up to $21 million over four years. But Florida's application commits the state to potentially sweeping changes on everything from evaluating teachers to turning around struggling schools.
Board members raised a long list of concerns. But Janssen said that many of the changes prescribed in the application are already in place or in motion because of the state's differentiated accountability system, which quietly became law last summer.
"Is the money worth them bossing us around?" said board member Linda Lerner.
"They already are," Janssen said.
"I hate to see the state and federal mandates on the district," said board member Peggy O'Shea, "but if money is coming out of the federal government, I want Florida to get what it can, and if it's coming to Florida, I want Pinellas to get what it can."
The letter of intent is due to the state Friday. But the discussion is far from over.
As part of the application process, the superintendent, board chair and teachers union president must sign a memorandum of understanding with the state by Jan. 12. The board scheduled a special meeting Jan. 7 to decide how it will proceed.
The teachers union, meanwhile, has "grave concerns" about the application, president Kim Black told the Gradebook this morning. She singled out the state's mandate for a new teacher evaluation system. The memorandum of understanding has "severe bargaining implications," she said.