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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida Board of Education expected to set rules on new principal program



A new school leadership program aimed at giving more flexibility to principals running some of Florida's most struggling schools could soon have more defined guidelines for its operations.

The State Board of Education is poised to consider a new rule for the "principal autonomy pilot" that Rep. Manny Diaz, incoming chairman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee, pushed through the Legislature in 2016. The Pinellas County school district is one of seven set forth in law as eligible to participate.

Pinellas district officials have discussed the possibilities of using the program, but have not made any final decisions. UPDATE: The administration is asking the School Board to approve Lealman, Maximo and Seventy-Fourth Street elementary schools for the pilot project. The item appears on the board's Jan. 10 agenda.

Under the pilot, districts would identify three schools that received a D or F grade from the state twice in the past three years, but are not yet under a state-approved turnaround plan. Those schools would have to bring in a principal with a "highly effective" evaluation rating, along with a three-member leadership team, and then identify a nationally recognized turnaround model for implementation.

The model would need to have a demonstrated track record of success, and have been in existence a minimum of five years. It would also require a focus on "improving leadership, instructional infrastructure, talent management, and differentiated support and accountability."

Once under way, the school-based team would have "increased fiscal and administrative authority" beyond that of a usual principal, and be given at leat 90 percent of the state per-student funding generated by the school. That's a percentage higher than many schools often receive.

A school in financial emergency would not be eligible under the rule, a pointed reference to the Jefferson County district, which also was included in the legislation as a potential site.

The State Board has increasingly shown a preference for replacing principals at low performing schools, going so far in the spring and summer as to refuse approval of some school turnaround plans if the leadership remained the same. Some district officials have bristled at the board's insistence, claiming it erodes local control, as Politico Florida recently reported.

The State Board is scheduled to meet Jan. 17 in Stuart. The full agenda has not been published.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 11:57am]


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