Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Principals leery of provisions in teacher bill that would affect them, too

After Cooper Dawson turned around one struggling St. Petersburg school, she was asked to do it again. The sixth-year principal embraced the challenge.

She spent five years boosting scores at Seventy-Fourth Street Elementary School and faces a similar task at F-rated Fairmount Park Elementary School.

It takes time, Dawson said, to put a school on a path to success — more time, perhaps, than newly approved Florida legislation will allow. While the attention and headlines have been on teachers, the bill signed this week by Gov. Rick Scott also changes principal evaluations and contracts.

Some fear that the tough new approach — ratings based on student and teacher performance and the ability to recruit and retain effective teachers — might deter some principals from taking on a struggling school.

"We are a little leery, especially somebody like me who was moved from a school that was successful to a school that hasn't been," Dawson said.

Still, Dawson said, the move toward increased accountability for principals makes sense, as long as additional factors they deal with daily are taken into consideration. After all, she said, tough schools can make great gains with children but still not get them to grade level.

"Student growth, student accountability needs to be part of all our evaluations," Dawson said. "If we are not effective, it's not working for kids."

Many principals share Dawson's mixed view of the pending law. They didn't protest as lawmakers debated the measure.

That did not mean they had no concerns about the provisions.

Principal Teresa Anderson, who has led Azalea Middle in St. Petersburg for eight years, noted that her C-rated school sometimes seems like a training ground for young teachers. They take a job at Azalea, where students' attention to school often is second to problems at home. They get training, perform well, and leave for schools with fewer issues, Anderson said.

If she can't keep the effective teachers, she might lose her job, too, despite her efforts.

Possible results like that have some principals wary. But they also recognize it comes with the job description.

Chris Fonteyn, first-year principal of F-rated Miles Elementary in Tampa, was told before taking the post that if he can't turn around Miles, he could lose his job.

"As it should be," he said. "If I can't move this school forward, you should find someone who can."

He said it's only logical that principals be judged on results, as students and teachers are. As long as the state looks at growth, not simple score targets, that's fair, he said.

"We have more room to grow," Fonteyn acknowledged, though he added it's often much harder to make gains at a high-poverty, high-needs school like his.

Kathy Hebda, Florida's deputy chancellor for educator quality, said the state Department of Education considers principals vital to a school's success. The creation of an evaluation system that takes into account everything they do is key to helping them identify strengths and weaknesses in their leadership and their schools, she said.

"We want to give people an honest opportunity for improvement," Hebda said.

Angie Stone, principal of Fivay High School in Hudson, said she's well aware of the changes coming. Pasco County, like many others, began crafting a new principal evaluation format months ago in advance of the bill.

Because principals already have annual contracts and many already see the state's school grade as a partial rating of their work, many principals aren't as upset as teachers are, Stone said. But even as evaluations should change, some attitudes toward education should change, too, said Stone, who is in her seventh year as a principal.

"I think that somewhere along the way, people have come up with the misguided idea that teachers and school administrators don't work," she said. "Not that there aren't bad teachers and bad administrators. But there are bad corporate people, too."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

>>Fast facts

SB 736 provisions

Much attention was focused on the new law dramatically altering teacher contracts, evaluations and pay. But some items got less notice, although they'll have a big effect. Here are five:

• Principals would be able to reject the placement or transfer of a teacher by their superintendent if the teacher does not have a performance rating of effective or highly effective.

• Parents would get a report informing them if their child's teacher or principal has been rated unsatisfactory in two consecutive years or twice within three years, or needs improvement in three consecutive years.

• Superintendents must make "demonstrated effectiveness" their primary consideration when recommending individuals for promotion.

• Teachers who accept a contract and then leave their position mid-contract without prior release from their local school board would be reported to the state Education Practices Commission for contract violation.

• Parents would be offered the opportunity to provide input into employee performance evaluations "when appropriate."

Principals leery of provisions in teacher bill that would affect them, too 03/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend Aug. 18-20: Elvis in concert, Jason Aldean, Monster Jam Triple Threat, Sing-Along Grease


    Plan your weekend

    The king

    Elvis: Live in Concert: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and Ruth Eckerd Hall will have a Graceland-produced Elvis concert on a movie screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra. Graceland calls it the closest audiences …

    Handout photos of Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  2. Woman convicted in murder of 18-year-old with cerebral palsy gets lighter term


    TAMPA — Linda Bonck, a 90-pound Chamberlain High School senior with cerebral palsy, lived near Tampa's Lowry Park. She struggled to walk and talk but was known for being friendly and trusting of strangers until she vanished one day in 1992.

    Georgia Miller, 39, was convicted for the 1992 murder of Linda Bonck, an 18-year-old Chamberlain High School student who had cerebral palsy. Originally sentenced to life in prison, Miller was resentenced Wednesday to 65 years, the result of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life. With gain time, Miller will be released from prison in the next six years. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  3. Boynton Beach woman arrested on DUI, child abuse charges


    A Boynton Beach woman was arrested Saturday and faces DUI and child abuse charges after she blew a .200 on a breath test with an unbuckled child in the backseat, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

    Brandy Lerma, 31 of Boynton Beach, was arrested on DUI and child abuse charges on Saturday. [Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Editorial: Why can't Hillsborough commissioners move Confederate monument?


    The violence in Charlottesville, Va., crystallized for much of the nation the danger of refusing to address painful symbols of the past. But not so in Hillsborough County, where the County Commission on Wednesday reversed itself yet again and left open the possibility of leaving a Confederate monument outside the …

  5. Former WTSP employee sues station's parent companies for gender discrimination


    A former director at WTSP-Ch. 10 has sued the station's parent companies, claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination.