Grego has the ear of the education commissioner
Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett had plenty of schools to pick from when he chose a destination to announce the state's FCAT scores last week. His staff characterized the improved writing scores as cause to celebrate (even if reading and math were lagging), and so any school would have been glad to host Bennett. But he landed on Starkey Elementary, here in Pinellas County, and he said it was for two reasons.
One: Starkey's writing gains were among the highest in Pinellas, and Bennett called the improvements "typical" of the state trend.
Two: Bennett's a pretty big fan of Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego.
"I'm not ashamed to say this, and I say this with a great deal of pride...One of the first people to reach out to me after I got here was Mike Grego, and Mike has been a sounding board for me over the four months," Bennett told reporters Friday.
Bennett went on to say that, when he saw the scores at Starkey, "I had very little doubt when I saw the scores that a great deal of this is due to the instructional leadership of your superintendent, your principals, and your teachers."
Grego is "a person who has followed education reform on a national front," said Bennett, concluding that "Frankly it's an honor really to be here with a guy that's at the top of his class."
The state board of education chose Bennett to lead its department in December, after losing re-election to the job in Indiana. When he began in January, Bennett told Starkey teachers and students last week, Grego and Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning were "two of the first people who reached out."
Grego had some kind words for Bennett as well. "He works with them," Grego said, referring to principals and teachers. Because Bennett is both a former teacher and principal, "I think his listening is also couched in the 'been there, done that," Grego said.