Sunday, June 17, 2018
Education

Pinellas seeks college students to staff extended learning programs

To learn more at school, students have to be at school more, and so teachers have to be at school more, before the first bell and after the last. This was the thinking of Pinellas County Schools in giving its campuses $4.5 million this year, a 60 percent funding increase, to expand before- and after-school programs for struggling students.

But then there was a problem. Not enough teachers signed up.

"Unfortunately, the programs are competing for the same available teachers, and not all teachers are available," said Robyn Witcher, a principal on assignment to the human resources department. About 80 positions are open for teaching assignments outside the regular school day, she said.

"The opportunities are growing. The pool of applicants is not."

In place of teachers, the district is looking to pay college students $20 an hour to staff these positions, which the school district characterizes as tutors. Five students from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg were going through the application process as of Friday.

The district has received more than 90 applications from students from a variety of other schools, including Eckerd College, the University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University, Polk Community College and St. Petersburg College.

To qualify, the students must have at least 60 college credits (or junior standing); a minimum 2.5 grade-point average; a positive recommendation from a professor, and a demonstrated interest in working with students.

Witcher said Pinellas would provide the college students with "a generic orientation," then leave specific training up to the individual schools.

Fred Bennett, the community liaison for USF St. Petersburg's College of Education, said the jobs would "refresh a lot of our college kids' skills" and be mutually beneficial.

"This is finals week and crunch time, so all the kids are pretty saddled," he said. But "we hope to start knocking on doors and get 40 or 50 kids."

Providing more seat time for students, particularly those who are struggling, has been a major priority for Pinellas schools this year. Superintendent Mike Grego rolled out the six-week Summer Bridge program, then followed it with Promise Time, an extra 60 to 90 minutes of instruction each day, in 28 high-poverty schools.

The college students are being sought for separate, school-based programs which also have proliferated with more funding. Pinellas schools design their own extended learning programs. For example, Forest Lakes Elementary in Oldsmar is pushing reading during extended learning time, drilling into phonics, fluency and comprehension in small groups.

It's not that teachers don't want to go the proverbial extra mile for their students, said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

"The issue is, we've seen an unprecedented amount of work added to the teacher's daily life and you can't possibly accomplish it within the 7 1/2-hour day," Black said. "Part of the problem with trying to get more teachers involved in (extended learning programs) is they're struggling to keep up with the requirements of their normal positions."

The tutoring positions, and why so many may be open, are complicated by pay. Twenty dollars an hour is more than what most after-school jobs pay, but well below the average Pinellas teacher's base hourly salary of $29, without factoring in the extra amount they get every year from a special schools property tax.

Negotiations for a new contract with the union stalled in September when the district offered teachers $20 an hour, up from the $15 they were making for extended learning time.

Bill Corbett, deputy superintendent for the district, said the extra work was more tutoring than teaching. Black saw the offer as a ploy for "discounted" teaching.

The issue was tabled until Thursday, when the district and the teachers union reached an agreement: Teachers will earn $20 an hour for the extracurricular work this school year, including back-pay for hours already taught, and earn their normal hourly pay next year, up to $29.

Black said this will make the extended learning openings more attractive to teachers. While she is glad students won't have to go without services thanks to the college students, Black emphasized the value of having a classroom teacher in front of them after-hours.

"We want the student to have adults who can meet their needs," she said. "Having the teacher who they have the relationship with during the day is a much more effective model."

Some of the students signing up from USF St. Petersburg have had experience leading a classroom. Shannon Fouts, a 20-year-old junior, spent the last semester teaching fifth-grade at Bear Creek Elementary in St. Petersburg as part of an internship. The education major expects to teach at a Pinellas middle or high school next spring and fall as well. "The kids were awesome," Fouts said of Bear Creek. "They taught me so much about myself as a person and teacher."

Other USF St. Petersburg students were interested in trying something new, and saw the tutoring program as a way to give back.

Rami Hijadi, a 22-year-old senior studying biology, doesn't want to be a teacher and has never worked with children before. "It's a way of helping, it's a good thing to do. … I think I'd be good at it," he said.

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Comments
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18
An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins has an ambitious new goal. He wants more students to be proficient in reading."I think it is the code to crack," Eakins said in an interview. He also told the School Board on Tuesday that ...
Published: 06/08/18