'Opted-out' Pinellas teachers finding new positions in the district
The Pinellas County school district is in a race to find quality teachers who are up for the challenge of teaching the county's neediest children by the early start of school.
The district has held two job fairs to find teachers for all schools, especially for five struggling south St. Petersburg elementary schools (highlighted in the Times' Failure Factories) that will undergo a transformation process in the coming school year that includes a lengthened school day.
Earlier this year, teachers were given the option to voluntarily "opt-out" of 18 "turnaround" schools for placement at another school. Some teachers were also involuntarily transferred out of the schools to be replaced by higher quality teachers.
As of Tuesday, 16 teachers have either voluntarily or involuntarily left Campbell Park, 25 have left Fairmount Park, 19 left Lakewood, 14 left Maximo and 21 left Melrose.
Amid fears that teachers who either left or were forced out would not find placement at another school in the district, Pinellas teachers union president Mike Gandolfo recently wrote an open letter to district superintendent Mike Grego and the Pinellas County School Board urging district officials to fill positions at non-turnaround schools with teachers already employed inside the district before recruiting outside hires.
"It's just a slap in the face for a teacher that's already in the system to be competing for jobs with teachers that are not in the system," he said.
District spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said 160 teachers that have either chosen to leave the school or were involuntarily transferred have been placed at another school and 57 are awaiting placement.
Wolf explained in an email that the district "routinely has had a number of displaced teachers to place but has remained able to start the school year without any displaced teachers still requiring to be placed."
"If the district waited until all the displaced teachers were placed to make outside hires, we would not be able to start the 2016-17 school year fully staffed," she wrote.
At Tuesday's School Board meeting, Grego announced that out of 354 candidates that attended the latest job fair held on June 10, about 150 were offered contracts.
"Each and every day we’re continuing that process," he said. "We're continuing following up with those individuals and principals with checking their backgrounds and doing various things."