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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

District leaders are rushing pay proposal, union president says



District leaders haven't taken the time to properly vet a proposal to pay teachers in five failing schools up to $25,000 more, the president of Pinellas County's teachers union said Thursday.

Mike Gandolfo said that district administrators are rushing to get a proposal in front of the School Board on April 12. But changes in teacher pay need to be negotiated with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. That process hasn't occurred yet. 

"I must be doing it in my sleep because I don't recall any of that," he said.

According to district officials at a community forum Tuesday at Lakewood High, the proposal calls for paying teachers in Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose between $20,000 to $25,000 more a year. Part of that money would be an increase in incentive pay, while much of it would come from working a longer school day. Teachers also would receive extra professional paid days.

Gandolfo, who said that he wasn't informed about two community forums held this week, said that he had concerns about the effect of a longer school day, both on children and teachers.

"If you don't fix the problems, you're setting them up for failure and you're going to burn them out even faster with a nine-hour day," he said.

The five schools were at the heart of a yearlong Tampa Bay Times series, "Failure Factories," which showed how the district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for schools that became predominantly poor and black. The five schools are failing at rates worse than almost any other schools in Florida.

Veteran teachers fled the schools after 2008; more than 100 teachers with 10 or more years of experience left. The district has largely replaced them with brand-new teachers.

The district's newly hired turnaround leader, Antonio Burt, who is overseeing reform efforts in the schools, is expected to complete his recommendations to the School Board next week.

District officials have held meetings with parents and school staff this week and before spring break to get input about the pay proposal and other potential changes. Deputy superintendent Bill Corbett said Thursday that the process has included multiple meetings with the union. He said that Gandolfo was first briefed about the proposal in late February.

Gandolfo said Thursday that the district needs to get more feedback from the community. He said that "his job" is to get more money for Pinellas teachers, but changes need to go through the bargaining process. 

"They seem to be in a rush to do this and I'm not in a rush to agree to it," he said.

Corbett said that the district, over several weeks, held many "focus groups" and meetings with community groups. They took recommendations from TNTP, the national non-profit doing teacher and administrator training in the five schools. They also heard from teachers identified by the state for having high VAM scores. Corbett said that the teachers were asked what it would take for them to work at one of the district's most struggling schools. 

[Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2016 3:28pm]


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