More teacher protests and another charter school approval expected at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting

Pasco County virtual student Molly Pedone, 13, in 2016. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Pasco County virtual student Molly Pedone, 13, in 2016. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published January 23 2018
Updated January 23 2018

TAMPA — This will seem familiar: Teachers are mobilizing to protest outside Tuesday’s Hillsborough County School Board meeting about their frozen pay rates.

And this too: A vote is expected on a new charter school.

Florida Connections Academy is a virtual school spearheaded by Star Hudspath, a veteran of the once powerful, Orlando-based Florida Virtual School. Also on the board is John Grant, the former Republican state senator from Carrollwood.

The school wants to open with 750 students in grades kindergarten through 12. That adds up to nearly $4 million in state education funding. In the fifth year, the school hopes to serve 4,000 virtual students.

Florida Connections was part of a generation that floated proposals to the district in spring of 2017. The district charter office found flaws in the proposal and counseled the group to fix them and reapply. They did, and the charter was approved in August.

Tonight’s vote is on the five-year contract.

At last count, Hillsborough had 50 charter schools with about 21,000 students, making privately managed charters the schools of choice for one in 10 public school students.

Teacher pay negotiations, meanwhile, continue in spite of an impasse that the union declared in December after the district offered only $1.8 million as a one-time bonus, which works out to about $92 per employee.

Other issues that may or may not come up for discussion:

* The state Board of Education’s insistence that Superintendent Jeff Eakins change principals at Palm River, Pizzo, Dover and Mango elementary schools, as he said he would in a turnaround agreement. hyper linked words here

*Substitute teachers, an issue the Times explored in an article that addressed both those hired by contractor Kelly Services and those who left the district under unfavorable circumstances and were rehired through Kelly.

*Eakins’ plans to add preschool classes to underenrolled elementary schools to improve kindergarten readiness.

The graduation rate, which rose by 3.8 percentage points between 2016 and 2017.

Eakins’ continuing plans to cut jobs to in order to balance the district’s operational budget.

The board meeting begins at 3 p.m. The Times will live-tweet and will update this report later.