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Pasco teachers to have direct access to School Board

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schoolteachers won't have to send their letters to the School Board through the superintendent after all.

Board members rewrote a proposed policy on staff communication that will allow employees to come directly to them with their views. The policy still requires a final vote before taking effect.

"If somebody chooses to communicate with the board, I don't want to put a stop to that," chairman Allen Altman said during a School Board meeting on Tuesday.

At the same time, board members removed a provision that would have required them to send the letters they get from staff to each other or to the superintendent.

"I don't want your e-mails," vice chairwoman Joanne Hurley told her colleagues. "We do not want to be doing that."

Assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly noted that superintendent Heather Fiorentino might want to receive the letters that board members receive. But board members recalled that Fiorentino commented previously that she didn't care whether the board had this policy or not. Fiorentino was not at the Tuesday meeting.

United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb said the policy revision, which some teachers advocated, was better. "But I really don't think it's necessary at all," Webb said.

Land O'Lakes High teacher Robert Marsh, one of the biggest critics of the policy, agreed.

"I still want it eliminated," Marsh said. "Why do we need this? Why is it there? Is it there because there are parties here who do not trust their employees?"

The board also sent back a proposed policy on nepotism, with members concerned that the definition of "direct supervision" might be too broad.

In other business, the School Board decided to not act yet on the state's application for the federal Race to the Top grant for education reform.

The board and Fiorentino had signed off on the state's first application, which failed, but did not get support from USEP.

Since that time, the state Department of Education revised the application to appeal more to teachers unions, which largely rejected the first effort.

One of the key changes would make it so school districts could not impose items from the negotiations, such as performance pay based on student scores, if the sides cannot reach agreement.

But Fiorentino was out of town and not available to make a recommendation on Webb's request to enter a local deal restating this provision. So the School Board decided to postpone its decision until next Tuesday — the state deadline to submit a signed memorandum of understanding to participate in the grant.

Florida is expected to seek $700 million for its reform plan, which includes some of the key provisions in the controversial Senate Bill 6, which Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed for failure to garner enough teacher support.

Leading up to Tuesday's session, representatives from the district and the USEP plan to meet to discuss how the sides can work together.

Webb acknowledged that many teachers do not want the union to sign the memorandum of understanding. The changes from the original version have not been fully explained to anyone, she said, and there has been little time to get people together to do so.

"If the district is willing to work with us to address our concerns … we're inclined to sign the memorandum to at least sit down and start talking about this," Webb said. "I feel more secure knowing we can do the best we can to craft the best agreement possible, and then let the teachers and School Board decide."

Also Tuesday, the board adopted start times for the 2010-11 school year. Most schools will see minor changes if any. Anclote High will start more than an hour earlier than this year, while Ridgewood High will begin 55 minutes later than this year.

Staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Pasco teachers to have direct access to School Board 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 8:56pm]
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