Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teacher suspended after defying Hillsborough school district's evaluation system

TAMPA — A veteran teacher was suspended Thursday for rejecting the evaluator chosen for him under a Gates-funded initiative that is revolutionizing the way the Hillsborough County School District assesses its teachers.

School and union officials believe this is the first such act of defiance under Empowering Effective Teachers, a complex system of mentoring and evaluation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The district's action comes just one day after the couple themselves, Bill and Melinda Gates, toured Jefferson High School, where the computer mogul hailed the program as a national model and called its success "phenomenal."

Joseph Thomas, 43, a social studies teacher at Newsome High School, said he refused to schedule a peer observation because he feels the evaluator, Justin Youmans, is not qualified to judge him.

Youmans, 29, has his experience teaching elementary school and sixth grade, according to his school district biography. "He thinks like an elementary school teacher," said Thomas, a teacher for 18 years.

Officials in the school district and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association said the evaluators undergo extensive training. What's more, they said, it is not unusual for a principal to evaluate someone even if their experience is in different age groups or subjects.

The school district also issued this statement:

"The district has an evaluation process and he has refused to comply with that process. That is insubordinate conduct under the Teacher Tenure Act. Until the district can look into the circumstances thoroughly, he has been removed from the classroom."

Until now, Thomas has had a clean disciplinary record, the district confirmed.

But he has been troubled by the new system for some time. "It's absolutely demoralizing," he said. "We're being treated unfairly, and it's extremely subjective."

He has been trading emails with union and school district officials about their choice of evaluators since early October. On Wednesday, he shared his concerns with the St. Petersburg Times. On Thursday, the district's Professional Standards office told him he was to be suspended, with pay, pending an investigation.

Thomas said he is not allowed contact with his students. He can visit the campus, where his son is a sophomore, only in his role as a parent.

The Gates system, funded in part by a $100 million grant from the foundation, replaces the old method of evaluating teachers, a somewhat informal process in which the principal or assistant principal filled out a checklist.

Under the new system, teachers are assessed in three ways; highly structured evaluations by the principal and peer, and a numerical component based on test scores and other data.

The idea is to retain, promote and pay teachers according to their value rather than seniority. A new state law requires all districts to move to similar methods of performance-based pay.

Thomas said he has not been told how long the investigation might take.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or

Teacher suspended after defying Hillsborough school district's evaluation system 11/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings