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Pinellas teacher that sparked three decades of complaints retires

Maria Raysses-Whipple, the Pinellas teacher who generated scores of complaints from students and teachers over three decades, is retiring.

Whipple, 61, was profiled in a March St. Petersburg Times story that documented a long history of accusations that she botched grades, belittled students and outraged parents. Despite the problems, the district put her back in the classroom at Dunedin High in 2008, 11 years after she agreed to stop teaching at East Lake High and move to a nonclassroom job. Within two weeks, complaints started anew.

"It has been my blessing and my burden to devote 32 years of my life of dedicated and determined service to Pinellas County Schools, students, and families," Whipple wrote to the district July 4. "I now find that for continued health and medical reasons, I will begin my retirement effective Wednesday, August 3, 2011."

Whipple submitted her retirement form on July 5 but did not complete paperwork finalizing it until Wednesday. She was making $60,798 a year and will receive a lump sum of $57,866 from the state in deferred retirement benefits. Her pension: $2,460 per month.

District officials began investigating her for undisclosed reasons in October. She went on medical leave in January. District paperwork filed this week indicates "she retired under investigation." It also says she will be coded as a "no rehire" in the district's personnel system.

The decision to give Whipple another shot at teaching raised concerns about superintendent Julie Janssen, who was interim superintendent at the time. The teacher was "gone from the classroom for 10, 12 years," she told the Times. "You can't predict that her behaviors haven't changed."

Whipple has said she was targeted because she refused to lower standards. In her letter, she wrote the degradation of the teaching profession will allow other countries to "outcompete and outperform our beloved America internationally on all substantive measures." She added: "Quel dommage!" That's French for "What a pity."

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Pinellas teacher that sparked three decades of complaints retires 07/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:07pm]
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