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In wake of tragedy, Pinellas teachers step up to help their own

More than two dozen teachers from four Pinellas elementary schools are working at Forest Lakes Elementary in Oldsmar today so their peers there can attend the funeral for the police officers killed in St. Petersburg.

Forest Lakes kindergarten teacher Lorraine Yaslowitz is the wife of fallen officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz.

The teachers "looked at this in the same way the police department looked at it … this is one of our own," said Kathleen Young, the principal at Highland Lakes Elementary, which sent nine teachers to Forest Lakes.

Young, whose brother-in-law is a law enforcement officer, said when she proposed the idea of covering for the Forest Lakes teachers, the response was overwhelming. More than 30 of her teachers responded.

"Kathleen, I'll be willing to do whatever you need me to do," wrote Mary Romary, a fifth-grade teacher at Highland Lakes. "Put my name on the list."

Teachers from Brooker Creek, Cypress Woods and Oldsmar elementary schools are also working at Forest Lakes today. Administrators from other schools also stepped up so the principal and assistant principal at Forest Lakes could attend the funeral.

"We surround those we care about with support and do whatever it takes to make this tragic time in their lives easier," said school district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn.

The four schools told parents that their students' teachers may be at another school today.

The schools did not enlist substitutes. Instead, they spread the kids out among the remaining teachers.

At Highland Lakes, that means some teachers have five or six extra students.

"Here's a teacher who has three kids, and two are school-age students," said Young, referring to Mrs. Yaslowitz. "We thought, 'If this was me, what would we want people to do?' "

Ron Matus can be reached at or (727) 893-8873.

In wake of tragedy, Pinellas teachers step up to help their own 01/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 2:19pm]
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