Joanne McCall, former president of Florida’s teachers union, will arrive in Pinellas County Tuesday as the new executive director of the local union.
The position at Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association has been vacant since 2016, when former director Bruce Proud retired. Its duties since have been handled by Mike Gandolfo, the union’s president, who said the burden of dual responsibilities finally became too much.
In an announcement Friday, Gandolfo wrote that union members will benefit from McCall’s “vast experience, knowledge, contacts, drive and focus."
“I believe she has the vision and wisdom to advise the presidents that follow me,” he added.
McCall served as president of the state union, Florida Education Association, for one term, losing reelection to the group’s vice president Fed Ingram in October. She previously was vice president after working as a speech and language pathologist in Sumter County for 20 years.
She returned to the classroom setting in January, at Godby High School in Leon County. Then Gandolfo called her about the job in Pinellas, she said in a phone interview Friday.
“The interviewed me and offered me the job before I was even much out of the parking lot,” McCall said, adding that the local union will be a nice “change of pace."
McCall said she has “unique ideas” for Pinellas. But she would not share them because they haven’t yet been communicated to union board members.
While in the state role, McCall took some criticism from both Ingram and others. Broward Teachers Union president Anna Fusco told the Miami Herald in October that herself and other local union presidents “basically demanded (Ingram) step up" in McCall’s place.
“She never executes a plan in a timely manner. She doesn’t include her local leaders to execute the plan,” Fusco told the Herald. “We’re always called off at the last minute and left on the back burner.”
McCall said Friday that she stands behind her leadership at the state union. The criticism she received only happened because it was election time, she said.
“I think I have a very strong record ... of listening to local leaders, and I have a very good record of moving the agenda of (the state union),” she said. “I don’t regret anything.”
Gandolfo’s announcement celebrated recent gains by the teachers union, which fought for better working conditions and won raises this school year. Membership is up and professional development offerings have improved, he said, adding that McCall’s leadership will only strengthen the group.
“Her addition to our team should give us all cause to hope for a brighter future for educators in Pinellas,” Gandolfo wrote. The union “has made some great strides in recent years and with the addition of Joanne McCall, we have become even more formidable."