Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Education

Teachers at troubled Connerton Elementary offered streamlined transfer process

LAND O'LAKES — Teachers who don't want to stay at Connerton Elementary School now have an easier out: The school district has offered to pave the way for their transfers to other jobs.

Employee relations director Kevin Shibley sent a letter to all Connerton teachers this week, letting them know that if they want to leave the troubled school, their applications to vacant spots at other locations in the district will be expedited without interviews.

"It's kind of a streamlined process for them," district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said.

The district administration worked out the process after hearing complaints from some Connerton teachers and others about the school's leadership. Principal Anna Falcone and assistant principal Wendy Carswell had come under fire for their management style, which precipitated Carswell's forced transfer to another school.

"Our primary goal is to have all stakeholders at Connerton working together to create a positive learning environment for all children and staff," Shibley wrote. "District staff will also be working closely with the school over the summer and throughout the school year to support the school and address any communication and climate issues that exist.

"We are committed to improving the culture at Connerton, and would love for you to be a part of this effort; however, we recognize that some employees may prefer to transfer to a different school."

Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, said the employees union supports the transfer offer, a form of which she expected to also be offered to school-related personnel.

"I think it's a good thing for those teachers," Webb said.

But it doesn't necessarily fix the school's underlying problems, she said. She recalled other situations in the past where a school principal had problems with management and was returned to an assistant principal post for more training and mentoring.

Those people came back stronger and were successful, she said, adding that Falcone may need the same type of assistance.

Falcone was out of town and not available for comment, school officials said.

Providing a pathway out of schools undergoing change is not new for Pasco County.

In recent years, the district made accommodations for teachers to leave schools that were changing their instructional plans, requiring more time and scrutiny of the teachers. Those included schools such as Cox and Hudson elementary schools and Ridgewood High.

"This is somewhat unique in that it doesn't have much to do with the program," Webb said. "It has to do with the leadership."

Connerton teachers seeking transfers under the deal have until July 2 to make their formal requests. The district plans to begin placing those teachers into spots they are qualified for on July 5.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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