Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

Pasco teacher defends her handling of misbehaving students during FCAT

DADE CITY — Irvin Education Center teacher Migdalia Mojica stands by her decision to email her principal during FCAT testing to seek help with two misbehaving seventh-grade test takers.

She also contends she did nothing wrong in using a computer to record activities in the classroom.

Mojica said in an interview late Wednesday that she will appeal superintendent Heather Fiorentino's recommendation that she be placed on a 10-day unpaid suspension for those actions. Fiorentino wrote in a formal reprimand that Mojica violated state FCAT procedures, which prohibit recording devices in test rooms and also instruct test proctors not to send emails while students are testing.

"I do stand by what I did," said Mojica, who has taught at the east Pasco alternative school for one year. "I didn't think I was violating anything."

She explained that she sent an email to principal Nancy Guss asking for assistance because the school had gone into quiet mode for testing, and she did not want to cause a disruption by using the phone. Mojica already had called Guss once that April 16 morning and received help calming the two children, who were the only students testing in the room, before the materials had been distributed.

The students "became disruptive and defiant in the first five minutes they walked in: Rushing to the reading area and engaging in extreme physical horseplay rolling on the couch falling onto the rug fighting over a beanbag. While I am talking to them they are cursing and using all types of profanity," Mojica wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Fiorentino.

Mojica also said she did not attempt to record the students' behavior, as suggested in the district's narrative of events. Rather, she said, she was trying to record her own presentation of the testing directions to demonstrate that she had done so properly even as the students got up from their assigned seats, made lots of noise and did not listen to her.

"I thought maybe they would stop when I started reading the FCAT instructions but they wouldn't. And in reality behavior policies on FCAT day are zero tolerance for any type of disruptive behavior at any level," Mojica wrote in her letter to Fiorentino. "In one last resort to deter them from their behavior I said I would record my voice. This to the students was like a joke … not even saying they might lose their tests did they stop cursing about the test, at each other and everything in sight."

Mojica did not defend the students' language or attitude. But she did note in both the interview and her letter that the students attending Irvin already are known to have behavior problems, and they often act out during the most routine events.

But if the goal is to educate them, she said, teachers must deal with the students as they come. She said she tried her best to both handle the students and follow the increased "securitization" of the FCAT.

She suggested that the testing rules that might work at a more traditional campus aren't necessarily the proper ones for an alternative school. The rules also were unclear, she added.

"These new guidelines did not clearly state specifically what would be an acceptable way to communicate in a case of extreme misbehavior or emergency," Mojica wrote to Fiorentino. "Common sense thinking before testing began: 'Okay I can call the office' and principal came. Students had already begun testing after 9:00 a.m. But students had continued to talk all along even talking aloud after testing had begun. Common sense and judgement at this time: 'Email the principal.' "

Perhaps, she said in the interview, the state "should reconsider its policies" barring such actions.

She is scheduled to meet Monday with Fiorentino to discuss the unpaid suspension, which is on the School Board's Tuesday agenda for action.

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.

Comments
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/23/18
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18