Thursday, April 26, 2018
Education

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.

Comments
Parents are buzzing about Pinellas’ newest magnet school

Parents are buzzing about Pinellas’ newest magnet school

ST. PETERSBURG — If the crowds that showed up for two open houses last week are any indication, the Pinellas County school district may have hit on a recipe that could finally turn around one of its most struggling schools.The two events drew more th...
Published: 04/26/18
Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student 'did what he had to do'

Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student 'did what he had to do'

UPDATE: The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has decided that Cpl. Richard Stackon acted properly in that incident. Sheriff Chris Nocco made that announcement at a Wednesday news conference where he also defended Stackon’s actons.   LAND O...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

TAMPA — Seeking to show that Hillsborough County school officials waste money that could go to teacher raises, union director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins talked about highly paid administrators. She talked about legal fees paid to outside firms when in-...
Published: 04/25/18
Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

NEW PORT RICHEY — Chris Dunning is a bundle of energy as he greets families to Wendell Krinn Technical High School’s first open house.He talks rapid fire about the opportunities to earn college credits and gain career training while also completing a...
Published: 04/25/18
Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE –– A room full of people wearing purple erupted in frustration before Hernando County school officials Tuesday night, scolding Superintendent Lori Romano for her recent firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary, which has been struggling ...
Published: 04/25/18
Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday denied the 2019 opening of Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School, a charter school proposed by the same group that applied once before in 2017.The team behind the school, said to be for ...
Published: 04/25/18
Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — A second district-wide survey to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Lori Romano soon will go out to about 3,000 Hernando County School District employees, giving them a chance to weigh in on the job she is doing.The instrument, ...
Published: 04/25/18
Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins is proud of his record in boosting high school graduation rates and inroads he has made in marketing the nation’s eight largest school district.His seven bosses on the School Board...
Published: 04/25/18
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions. They also said that as a result of his actions, he wil...
Published: 04/24/18
Updated: 04/25/18
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Published: 04/24/18