Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Clements re-elected president of Hillsborough teachers union

TAMPA — Jean Clements was re-elected as president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association in a contest that was, in part, a referendum on Hillsborough's education reform efforts.

Clements got 54 percent of the vote, according to union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins.

Joseph Thomas got 29 percent. Leo Haggerty got 17 percent.

About 2,000 votes were cast, amounting to 21 percent turnout, which is about normal, Baxter-Jenkins said.

This is the fifth election victory for Clements, who turned 56 this month and has worked for the school district since 1979.

Coming from a background in special education, she's been president of the organization since 2002 and collaborated closely with the district on the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teachers project.

EET, as school officials call it, is a seven-year plan to revamp the way teachers are evaluated, mentored and paid. Since the district won the $100-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the rest of the state has been ordered to adopt similar measures. These include the use of student test data and, in Hillsborough, peer evaluations to help assess teacher performance. The overall objective is to reward the best teachers, regardless of seniority, and encourage those who do not measure up to leave the profession.

Clements' work with the Gates initiative has given her a national profile. Critics have accused her of being too close to the administration, to the detriment of teachers who object to the new evaluation system. Clements, in her defense, said she can advocate for teachers more effectively if she has a productive working relationship with the superintendent and those running the Gate project.

Haggerty, 58, is active in the union and was part of the leadership team that developed Empowering Effective Teachers, but has spoken out against the initiative in its current form. Thomas, 43, had no union experience. He emerged last year as a voice for those who resented the Gates project when he rejected his peer evaluator, calling him unqualified because he taught a different age group.

Both Haggerty and Thomas teach social studies, one at Wharton High and the other at Newsome High.

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