Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Head of teachers union in Hernando ousted

BROOKSVILLE — Signaling their desire for a new direction, Hernando County teachers this week voted out two-term Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Joe Vitalo in favor of a longtime teacher with previous experience leading the union.

Jo Ann Hartge, a sixth-grade science teacher at West Hernando Middle School, received 58 percent of the votes — 444 of the 766 cast.

Vitalo pulled in 322 votes, or roughly 42 percent.

About 30 percent of the membership did not cast ballots.

"I had no idea how it was going to go," Hartge said Friday. "I thought it was going to be close. I was surprised. I was nervous."

Hartge, 61, served two two-year terms as union president between 1996 and 2001, earning respect as a fiery advocate for teachers. A Rhode Island native, she has been with the Hernando school district for 26 years, including nine years at West Hernando. She earned national board certification — the pinnacle of the teaching profession — in 1999 and has maintained it since.

Hartge said she thought the organization needed a change.

"Our classrooms are so different; our challenges are so different," she said. "I just want to bring in a new perspective."

She said she will only serve one three-year term.

Hartge will spend her first days assessing the needs of the union and talking with people in the district, including Lori Romano, whom the School Board has chosen as the district's next superintendent.

"I hope to have a very collaborative working relationship with the new superintendent," Hartge said.

But she says, above all, she's "going to be advocating for public education."

Among her desires: more training, mentoring and professional development for teachers.

Vitalo, 50, held the position for six years and was trying for his third term. He was the union's first full-time president.

He said he worked to improve salaries, working conditions and resources for teachers.

During his tenure, teacher salaries in Hernando improved dramatically.

"I guess that wasn't important enough," he said.

Vitalo said he felt there were a variety of issues, some unfounded, that cost him the job, including accusations that he was too cozy with the administration and that he was using the position to take a job with the state.

He adamantly denied those claims.

Vitalo said he will return to the classroom or seek other positions for which he is qualified.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Comments
50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

Ulysses Floyd remembers February 1968 all too well.Teachers by the thousands walked off their jobs across Florida. Among their concerns: low pay, poor funding, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. "We were at the mercy of the School ...
Published: 02/19/18
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Published: 02/18/18
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Published: 02/18/18
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Published: 02/18/18
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18