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Grego makes major moves to change leadership in Pinellas schools

Mike Grego has only been Pinellas County superintendent for eight months, and he says filling some positions has taken a long time simply because he’s new.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Mike Grego has only been Pinellas County superintendent for eight months, and he says filling some positions has taken a long time simply because he’s new.

Eight months into his tenure as superintendent, Mike Grego has started making major moves to shake up leadership in the administration and the schools.

He appointed a deputy superintendent and upgraded three director positions. He demoted the head of the curriculum department. He also eliminated three positions: director of special education, executive director of core curriculum and the "turnaround officer" charged with working to help struggling schools.

He's shuffled principals at three of five schools facing state intervention for chronic low performance, pulling a well-liked principal out of Clearwater Fundamental Middle to fill one position. A few other schools — including Campbell Park Elementary, Largo Middle and John Hopkins Middle — still don't know if their principals will be the same in the 2013-14 school year.

Teachers at the five schools on the state's list must reapply for their jobs. Two of the schools — Maximo Elementary and Fairmount Park Elementary — have advertised teaching positions, while the district has been mum about whether current teachers are being retained.

Grego said he hopes to have many of those decisions made by June. Some appointments are taking longer this year simply because he's new, he said.

"We want to make sure we have the right leaders at the schools and we're not just rubber-stamping (people,)" he said.

The result, however, has been upheaval and angst in some corners of the district, as administrators, principals and teachers wait to find out whether, and where, they'll be employed.

School Board members have quietly supported the changes, signing off on most of them with little to no discussion.

Board member Terry Krassner acknowledged some of the turmoil during last week's board meeting, but said, "I really believe with all my heart that it's for the best."

In naming a deputy superintendent, Grego went against a recommendation in a study of the district done last year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The study criticized Pinellas schools for being too top-heavy, suggesting the deputy as a position to eliminate.

Grego called the recommendation "convenient" because former deputy superintendent Jim Madden was retiring at the time.

"A recommendation is just that: It's a recommendation. It's not something you have to do," he said.

New deputy superintendent William Corbett, who was promoted from area superintendent, will be involved in some of the district's major issues, Grego said. Those will include revamping merit pay for teachers, succession planning for the leadership team and working on the district team that negotiates with the teachers union.

Perhaps the biggest other change to the administrative team was to move Bill Lawrence, associate superintendent of teaching and learning, to a lower-ranking director position. Pamela Moore, who worked for Lawrence, will take his spot.

Lawrence, who has been named the director of student demographics, assignment and school capacity, will be charged with revamping some magnet programs that have lost their luster, Grego said. Lawrence's skills closely match that task, he said.

"I felt that needed to be looked at in a different way."

Moore, a veteran administrator and former principal, understands how important it is to build a strong curriculum department, Grego said.

Lawrence, who has been associate superintendent since 2011, said he works well with Moore and will continue to in the future.

"I'm just ecstatic to be able to have a new challenge to contribute to the district," he said.

Grego still has a few positions to fill, including an area superintendent and three executive directors. And some district-level administrators whose jobs were eliminated, such as turnaround officer Charlene Einsel, haven't been named to new positions yet.

Some of Einsel's job duties will fall under a new position, associate superintendent of student community services, Grego said.

"I also believe turning around schools is everyone's responsibility," he said.

Some employees could lose their jobs altogether.

Changes to staffing levels in special education classrooms have resulted in 100 to 115 fewer classroom aide positions. A district-level job and a school-based job in the special education department were consolidated, leaving 51 staffers to compete for 36 positions.

Consolidation of the district's three special education centers, with students being moved from Hamilton Disston to either Calvin Hunsinger or Richard L. Sanders, also has left teachers and administrators scrambling.

Grego said there should be less upheaval next year, with a faster hiring and reappointment process because he'll be more familiar with every school.

"Out of 17,000 employees, this is pretty good," he said.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Grego makes major moves to change leadership in Pinellas schools 05/26/13 [Last modified: Sunday, May 26, 2013 11:50pm]

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