As anticipated, representatives of the United School Employees of Pasco and the Pasco County School District have signed an agreement refining the teacher evaluation process to focus more on professional development, less on penalties.
Most notably, the deal eliminates the two structured classroom observations that had made up 65 percent of past evaluations, replacing them with a series of less formal classroom visits over time. Val Smith, the USEP lead negotiator, said the move would lead to a "more natural cycle of feedback" from administrators to teachers, with a goal of growth in their skills.
"We believe it's going to give teachers more opportunity to demonstrate their effectiveness," Smith added.
District employee relations director Kathy Scalise said the administration agreed with the USEP on that point. Everyone involved wanted to create a system less subject to the whims of the Legislature, she said, while also less focused on the negative aspects of what happens when a teacher doesn't hit all the marks.
The change should allow teachers with a consistent, steady and strong performance to potentially end their observations early in the year, Smith said. That would allow those teachers to spend more time on a chosen area where they would like to improve, called a "deliberate practice," she said.
At the same time, Scalise said, principals would also have more time to work with teachers who are newer to the profession, as well as coaching the veterans. She said administrators have long asked for time to do that work.
The sides also agreed to leave unchanged the student performance data piece of the evaluations, which counts as 35 percent of the overall result.
Although the one-year deal will not formally take effect until the School Board and the USEP membership approve it, the sides agreed to begin implementing it now "in anticipation of ratification," Scalise said. As a result, classroom observations will change immediately.
SCHOOL GRADES: Many of the schools across Florida that received "incomplete" letter grades for 2017 from the state have received updated ratings after a more thorough review of their testing results.
In Pasco County, seven saw no changes from their 2016 marks, while two improved and one did not have enough information to shed its "I." Each of those had to deal with data that originally showed they did not test a sufficient number of students.
Among those, Pasco eSchool and Pasco Virtual Instruction raised their grades to A's. Pasco, Gulf and Fivay high schools retained their C grades, and Ridgewood High and Florida Virtual Academy charter maintained their D grades.
The Irvin Education Center and Achieve Center, for students with behavior disabilities, received a "maintain" rating, while Schwettman Education Center was left with its "I."
One Pasco County school got an "incomplete" for a different reason — questions about "statistically improbable" outcomes on some of its student tests. An investigation into Trinity Oaks Elementary's fourth-grade math results remains under way. The state has not rendered any opinion on that school's grade yet.
REZONING: Pasco Circuit Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd is calling for quick final action in a west Pasco parent challenge of the school district's new middle and high school attendance zones.
Byrd refused to grant a temporary injunction against the maps, which the parents contended should be voided because of alleged private discussions by rezoning advisory committee members.
Her written order became available Aug. 25. In it, Byrd reiterated that, while Florida's Sunshine Law "serves an important public interest," the issuance of an injunction less than two weeks before students returned to classes did not serve the public interest.
The disruption, Byrd wrote, would be too great.
"Although the temporary injunction was denied for the 2017-18 school year, this Court recognizes that planning for the 2018-19 school year will begin in the near future," she continued. "As such, this Court is expediting this case to final resolution."
The judge ordered the sides to mediate the case within 20 days. If they cannot resolve their issues, she scheduled a case management conference for Sept. 12 to set a date for a final hearing on the matter.
The School Board has set aside time for a closed-door discussion of the case for Sept. 5.
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.