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Stewart upends Lastinger partnership



Interim Pinellas superintendent John Stewart is upending one of his predecessor’s biggest projects, a 4-year-old teacher training partnership with the University of Florida that was billed as the “new Gatorade.” Stewart said Friday that he and officials with UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning agreed to immediately reshape the venture, which is contracted through the rest of the school year. He said he did not plan to spend district money on it next year. “I am confident that we will be successful not only in using our resources more wisely going forward,” he told school board members in an email, but in offering better training, too.

Story here. Stewart's email to board members here:

Dear School Board members,

I’m pleased to report to you that Mr. Madden, Mr. Lawrence and I had a very productive meeting yesterday with Don Pemberton and Bernard Oliver of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning. As you know, I’ve had concerns regarding the efficacy of spending our Title I and Title II dollars on a program for which we have no measurable results. Mr. Pemberton and Mr. Oliver very generously cleared their schedules to meet with me so we could have a conversation about where we want to go from here.

Mr. Pemberton agreed that it is imperative that we focus our limited resources on teachers and students in our most struggling schools. He further acknowledged that there is no research that indicates receipt of a master’s degree makes someone a better teacher. In essence, we agreed that the time had come for us to reevaluate our relationship.

We mutually agreed to the following:

The district will honor the commitment the board entered into with Lastinger through June 30, 2012. Teachers participating in the master’s degree program will continue to be funded through that date. Mr. Pemberton has agreed on behalf of the Lastinger Center to secure funding to pay tuition for those teachers who have not completed their degrees by that time. Any teacher who wants to begin work on a master’s degree through Lastinger henceforth will be responsible for his or her own tuition.

Teachers whose master’s programs are being funded by the district must be working in a struggling school. Anyone who is receiving a master’s degree using district funds who is not working in a school where a significant number of students are struggling must either transfer to such a school or begin paying his or her own tuition.

The Lastinger team will begin working immediately with Mr. Lawrence, Ms. Grant, and other district administrators to repurpose the type of professional development currently being delivered by the Lastinger group. The emphasis on “inquiry” will be replaced with evidence-based professional development strategies that focus entirely on reading, literacy, mathematics and science.

I trust that these arrangements address the concerns you’ve expressed regarding our partnership with Lastinger. I am confident that we will be successful not only in using our resources more wisely going forward, but more important, we will be able to offer a better professional development opportunity to teachers and students who are depending on us.

John A. Stewart

[Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 6:27pm]


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