Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Overwhelmed Pasco teachers plead for lighter workload

LAND O'LAKES — Nancy Richey became a teacher five years ago, after a career in publishing, because she believed she could make a difference for children.

She has only seen her stress level rise.

"The mounting workload has become, for lack of a better word, ridiculous," Richey told superintendent Heather Fiorentino during a grievance hearing Thursday evening. "When we come in, we are not feeling effective anymore. ... We are not serving our kids in a just way, because of all the planning."

The Hudson Elementary instructor was one of more than 1,300 Pasco County elementary school teachers to file a formal complaint that their work conditions have grown too burdensome, to the detriment of their actual instruction.

Many of the actions at the schools, such as interrupting planning time for training or meetings, violate the teachers' contract, the United School Employees of Pasco contended.

It has taken its toll on teachers personally, as well.

Richey said her weight has risen along with her blood pressure as she faces the demands of meetings, testing and other requirements that eat into the workday or lead to work after hours.

"Let teachers actually teach," she said.

She was not alone.

Several teachers shared their experiences of rising anxiety and stress as they take work home just to keep up with the increasing demands that take up their planning and instruction.

"You can't live this job 24 hours a day seven days a week. That is what it comes down to," Anclote Elementary teacher Jennifer Wray told Fiorentino, adding that after 26 years she can no longer encourage young people to enter teaching.

The USEP filed its grievance after two years of discussions with the administration to relieve some of the burden, business representative Jim Ciadella told the superintendent.

It appeared at one point that the district had several ideas to ease the load, he said. But then many of the recommendations were encouraged, not mandated, which did not help, Ciadella argued.

"When it came to taking any real action, we felt your action did not meet your rhetoric," he said.

Ciadella reviewed several parts of the teacher contract that he contended were violated by the district's actions.

After the USEP's presentation, the administration offered its perspective.

David Scanga, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, did not deny that stress is up as schools strive to meet increasing state and federal accountability demands.

He contended, however, that the schools have been attempting to make the work more efficient and less redundant. He asked several principals to offer examples, which he said are similar to the efforts being made in every school.

Scott Mitchell, principal of Watergrass Elementary, said he had essentially eliminated staff meetings, using email instead. He had streamlined committees and their work and increased the amount of planning time for teachers.

Woodland Elementary principal Kim Poe said she had made it easier for teachers to jointly plan, eliminating the need for individual written lesson plans, for instance.

"We are trying to find ways to work smarter, not harder, and utilize the time we have to work in that school day," Poe said.

Scanga said he had not been aware of some of the specific complaints that the USEP had at individual schools, adding that he would have addressed those quickly had he known.

At the same time, though, he stressed that the work must change as the demands increase.

Fiorentino asked questions sporadically throughout the hearing, aiming to figure out whether the work teachers complained about is required and by whom. She also had department directors come forward to explain exactly what materials they had been promoting and whether those are mandated or if teachers have flexibility in using them.

The USEP suggested that many of the tools seem mandatory, even if they are not. It has asked for a reduction in non-mandated tests and meetings.

Fiorentino said she would consider all the evidence and testimony and have a response within five working days, as required. She said she would try to balance teacher needs and principal accountability, while focusing on what's best for students. "I will do what I think is the fairest thing for everyone," she said.

If the union is unhappy with the result, it may appeal to the School Board.

Overwhelmed Pasco teachers plead for lighter workload 11/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: Pinellas cannot ignore homeless families

    Editorials

    They are living on our streets and in our parking lots, in cheap motels and spare bedrooms if they're lucky and in old cars if they are not. Their kids attend our schools, and parents often are afraid to seek help. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but …

    
Ariana Turner, 22, and her daughter, Namine Cowell, 2, are living at St. Petersburg Free Clinic Family Residence after falling on hard times. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but homeless families with kids are virtually shut out. It's a crisis that requires public and private leadership to find an answer that is both compassionate and cost-effective.
  2. Report: USF faculty complained of a hostile, sexist, boorish boss

    College

    TAMPA — A certain University of South Florida academic may be an unpopular and insensitive bully, but he did not break USF rules, a lengthy legal review has concluded.

    Herb Maschner was removed last fall as the head of a technology center at the University of South Florida after the school learned his previous employer found he engaged in inappropriate, on-campus sexual behavior. A new report looks at Maschner's tenure at USF. [Idaho State University]
  3. Oh, deer! Two bucks seen on video duking it out in Tennessee

    Wildlife

    Deer generally are seen as calm and serene creatures, but that was not the case in this video posted Wednesday on the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's Facebook page.

    A video, shot by Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency wildlife officers Amy and Bubba Spencer on one of their trail cameras, shows two bucks on their hind legs and flailing in an open field. [Facebook]

  4. Pedestrian dies after being struck by vehicle near USF Tampa campus

    Accidents

    A pedestrian was killed near the University of South Florida Tampa campus on Friday after he was struck by a car on Fletcher Avenue, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

  5. Prada is selling a $185 paperclip. Excuse me, what?

    Blogs

    Prada is selling a $185 paperclip. File that (with regular office supplies) under things you don't need.