Merit pay flows to affluent schools | Feb. 24, story
Don't pit teachers
against each other
Why were the officials surprised by the results of this experiment with merit pay?
Even the Educational Testing Service has published numerous reports showing the direct correlation between student achievement and socioeconomic status. In March 2002, for instance, their "An Uneven Start: Indicators of Inequality in School Readiness" report exposes this well-known situation and shows that it holds true across all ethnic groupings and for all levels of socioeconomic status.
And our officials are surprised?
The path to quality schools is not to be found by pitting teacher against teacher. Pay all teachers and other school personnel professional salaries. Treat them with respect and don't act surprised when the obvious comes to light.
All students can succeed, but in order to do that the educational system must be fully funded and insulated from the whims of politicians who use merit pay for teachers and schools as photo opportunities to enhance their re-election campaigns.
Marc Seligman, Ed.D., Land O'Lakes
Merit pay flows to affluent schools | Feb. 24, story
Try a swap
Since merit pay results showed that many of the recipients are employed in schools located in the upper-class suburbs, and that fewer teachers in the Title I schools in Hillsborough County received the reward, why not switch the teachers for at least one school year?
Then, the school district may be able to determine whether the students, the teachers, or both make a difference in the scheme of things when it comes to merit pay.
Dr. Mary L. Kocerka, Palm Harbor
Her task: get 20 schools up to speed | Feb. 23, story
As an educator at Walsingham Elementary, I find the use of the word "hysterical" in characterizing the staff at Walsingham as unfortunate. I have attended the meetings and I assure you there has been no gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands, crying in the hallways or any other type of behavior that indicates hysteria. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is a disservice to our teachers to suggest it.
While the future is uncertain, teachers remain professional. We attend many hours of in- and afterschool training as well as many meetings concentrating on increased student achievement. We come to school early and stay late. In short, we are doing our jobs.
Teachers are indeed concerned, mostly because we are waiting to see what the final restructuring plan will be, waiting to find out exactly when these changes are supposed to take place, and waiting to see how our students perform on the tests. Yet we continue to come to school each day, do our jobs, and care for and about children and their learning. This is not a sign of hysteria. I venture to say that the teachers/staffs at the 19 other schools facing restructuring are doing the same.
Victoria Hagedorn, Ph.D., Clearwater
School tiff simmers at top | Feb. 22, story
A bad board decision
This story makes me shake my head and wonder about the functionality of the Pinellas County School Board. If the facts in the story are correct, superintendent Clayton Wilcox specifically requested back in October that School Board attorney Jim Robinson's contract not be renewed. He obviously made this request because he did not feel the two could work together productively.
Despite that request from the school district's "top dog," the board voted to keep Robinson in his job. And they wonder why they have a conflict?
Wilcox has a big job, and based on his positive performance reviews and salary increases previously approved by this board, he's doing it pretty darn well. Then why not listen to him regarding Robinson's contract? Why intentionally make his job harder by keeping Robinson, someone with whom he already knew he had a conflict, in place?
The board created this problem, then points fingers at the two of them for not being able to resolve their own disputes. They obviously tried, and failed. If the board is not going to listen to Wilcox, then replace him. It's got to be one or the other.
Kelly Mione, Seminole
One must go
It's time for the Pinellas School Board to realize that this "feud" is nothing more than a common employee spat. Unfortunately the employees involved are the two highest-paid and critically involved employees in the system. Their imbroglio is having a highly negative effect on the dedicated staffers around them who have to walk on eggshells to avoid entanglement in their pique.
In my 30 years of top leadership and management, I have never seen a situation like this resolve itself. I am not in a position to judge who is "right" in this mess, but I do know two things: 1) No employee is indispensable, and 2) The board must take action to make the decision to remove one of the aggrieved parties. They won't "facilitate" it themselves.
Scott K. Wagman, St. Petersburg
Vote not that close
Stories, editorials and letters keep talking about the "close" (4-3) vote by the state Board of Education approving the new science standards. I believe this misrepresents the facts as I understood them from the original article.
Of the three votes against, two of them were against modifying the proposed standards and in favor of the standards as originally written. Therefore, it appears that six of the seven board members favored teaching about evolution.
By continuing to focus on the "closeness" of the vote, we do a disservice to the reputations of both the Board of Education and the state of Florida. We also encourage those who do not understand what science is and is not to continue their efforts to undermine the teaching of science.
Ronald S. Leight, Seminole
While I commend your paper for writing about the many problems with so-called "merit pay" for teachers, your "investigation" revealed what the vast majority of us classroom teachers know, and have known: It's unfair and ineffective at best.
As a former Hillsborough County teacher who voted against the idea more than once, I understand all too well how ridiculous it is to base most of a teacher's performance on a standardized test that she is not allowed to see (nor are students or even parents).
Hillsborough County should stand with the rest of the bay area, and most of the state, by rejecting the ill-fated merit pay plan. In fact, at a time of budget challenges, local and state leaders should listen to rank-and-file teachers for a change and stop wasting tax dollars on FCAT and all "bonuses" based on it. Then we would have the money to fund what is best for our children, but what many say we cannot afford: smaller classes.
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor