Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Education

Pinellas County school committee off to rough start

After more than 18 months of tense negotiations between the Pinellas County School District and the teachers union, former superintendent John Stewart and union president Kim Black agreed that one of the most positive results of the teachers contract settlement had nothing to do with money.

It was the creation of a joint committee to find ways to provide students with enough instruction while giving teachers adequate planning time.

Under the new contract, the committee starts work Monday. But it's already off to a rough start.

Stewart named the district's members, but union leaders have yet to name theirs. And Black asked the school board last week to reconsider Stewart's appointments, saying she was surprised by his selections.

The team includes: Ron Ciranna, head of human resources; Steve Swartzel, director of governmental relations; Kevin Smith, head of finance; and three principals, Kevin Hendrick, Susan Keller and Rob Ovalle.

No one on the team comes from the district's curriculum staff. Two of the members — Ciranna and Swartzel — were part of the district's negotiating team and frequently clashed with union leaders. At one point over the summer, union leaders accused Ciranna of misleading board members about proposed health insurance changes.

Black said the committee's work could be pivotal for the future of teaching and learning in the district and she would prefer to see the district's team shaped by new superintendent Mike Grego, who started Wednesday. She said the union doesn't plan to make its appointments until there's been more discussion with Grego about "what we're really looking for."

Grego said Thursday that he hasn't had a chance yet to look into the committee or even review who was appointed by Stewart.

The committee's recommendations are due in March.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter at @Fitz_ly.

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