Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Agreement reached allowing midyear teacher transfers

Pasco County teachers will not face a ban on midyear job transfers under an agreement reached between the school district, which had sought to limit the moves, and the teachers union.

"Teachers will be able to transfer between schools," said Jim Ciadella, operations manager for the United School Employees of Pasco. "If a person is offered a job, he or she will be transferred once a qualified replacement is found."

School principals will be expected to seek replacements in a timely fashion, although no time frame was established.

Assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley said the deal, which officials had already been implementing unofficially, should resolve the administration's key concern. He has sent new guidelines to all administrators.

"We were just trying to cut down on the number of classrooms that were being affected by having non-certified teachers in front of students," Shibley said. "Our most struggling schools were the ones that were being impacted the most by teachers leaving in the middle of the year."

Superintendent Kurt Browning announced in August that he would stop midyear transfers as a way to end the "domino effect" of shifting teachers and disrupted classrooms. Union leaders argued that the superintendent, who had asked for such changes for three years, could not unilaterally change contractual rules for changing jobs.

After an October hearing, the sides saw their positions were not far apart. So the district held off issuance of a grievance ruling while representatives negotiated a settlement. They got hung up briefly over how job interviews would be conducted — in person, over the phone or via the Internet — but eventually hashed out the details.

Now, USEP president Kenny Blankenship said, the transfer rules are "better defined" than ever.

"It gives us some room to stand on and stand up for teachers who are being offered positions and gives them a concrete process to follow," Blankenship said.

He and Shibley agreed that the issue requires no further discussion, and it should not become the subject of future contract talks.

SCHOOL PRINCIPALS: Two Pasco County middle schools have principal openings after their former leaders took transfers to other posts within the district.

It's also the time of year when the superintendent's team takes a look at whether principals are in the places best suited for them.

Teachers don't want to have just anyone foisted upon them. So lately they've begun sending superintendent Kurt Browning recommendations and requests to be involved in the selection process.

Educators at River Ridge Middle School have mounted a campaign to promote one of the school's assistant principals to replace Marcy Hetzler-Nettles, recently promoted to assistant superintendent. The faculty at Chasco Middle School, meanwhile, sent a joint email saying they take leadership issues seriously as the district works to find a principal to take over for David Huyck, who moved to Crews Lake Middle.

"Research shows that a key component for effective learning is a stable, safe environment for all learners of which teachers are an intrinsic part. For teachers to feel valued and supported a school must have strong leadership," the faculty wrote. "Our desire is to have input into the appointment of this very important position with the hope that the process will be a transparent one."

Several reports have indicated that a principal's role is second only to classroom instruction in a school's success or failure.

The superintendent's staff met Monday to begin discussing school leadership issues.

REZONING CHALLENGE: The state Division of Administrative Hearings has rejected the request to delay hearing complaints by two groups challenging the Pasco County School Board's recent attendance zone revisions.

Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander, assigned to both cases, denied the continuance without comment shortly after receiving objections from the school district's lawyer. Board attorney Dennis Alfonso argued that the district is ready for trial and substantially complied with all Florida law.

He further wrote that the district faces a March 1 deadline for completing its open enrollment application process, to give all parties enough time to evaluate the options, and that the board needs finality in this case so it can begin setting its fiscal 2018 budget.

As it stands, the cases are set to be heard at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27 (west side) and Feb. 28 (east side) at the School Board meeting room in Land O'Lakes.

The west-side plaintiffs, meanwhile, also have filed in court a motion for a temporary injunction against the changes.

Their lawyer argues that the committees reviewing the boundary proposals violated the state Sunshine Law, alleging that committee members had private discussions about the issues outside the publicly noticed meetings.

The School Board plans to hold an executive session regarding the litigation on Feb. 21.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.


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