Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego wants employees at the five schools facing state intervention to know that their jobs are most likely safe. We wrote Saturday that employees will be asked to reapply for their jobs at Melrose Elementary, Maximo Elementary, Fairmount Park Elementary, Pinellas Park Middle and Azalea Middle.
The action is required as part of a state turnaround model selected by district officials. But in a message sent out, Grego said that media coverage suggesting jobs could be on the line was "at best premature and at worst erroneous." He said the district is "simply intent on staffing these high need schools with individuals who have a special talent for helping high need students, as the law requires." The letter, which is posted below, reads in part:
"It's true that there could be some personnel changes at your schools both at the leadership and instructional level. But to say that you are in danger of losing your jobs, which has been implied in recent press coverage, is at best premature and at worst erroneous. While some principals and teachers may be asked to reapply for jobs at their current school, and while some may be offered opportunities at other schools, most principals and teachers, especially high-performing ones, should not be concerned about their jobs with Pinellas County Schools."
This is interesting to the Gradebook given that both Grego and district officials confirmed Friday that employees would be asked to reapply for their jobs. (Now, as it says in the story, that process for some teachers could be as simple as having their principal tell them they have a job next year.) The district hasn't asked for a correction, but Melanie Marquez Parra said today that district officials were concerned that the third paragraph of the story left the impression that affected employees could be out of a job entirely, rather than moved to a new school. To be clear, the district has several hundred openings every school year, so it's unlikely that anyone would be out of a teaching job entirely. The story was about the current job held by the employee - and it's clear that employees' jobs at the schools aren't guaranteed for the 2013/14 school year.
Parra also said today that most people on the staff will keep their jobs and that principal decisions could be made as soon as next week. Asked Friday if Grego already had some indication that principals at certain schools were safe, so to speak, he said, "We're reassessing the principals." Of the district's choice of turnaround model, Grego said Friday, "The method by which were doing it is to re-examine all of the teachers."
Also interesting is that the state-mandated plan calls for this: "The district will replace the principal, all assistant principals, and instructional coaches who have been assigned to the school for more than one year." The state calls for a "comprehensive search" for a new principal with a "clear record of turning around a similar school." The Gradebook asked today how the district plans to conduct a comprehensive search in a week.
The state's plan also says that "instructional faculty and staff are reassigned or replaced whose students' failure to improve can be attributed to the lack of performance on the part of faculty and staff providing instruction or support. Reading and mathematics teachers will not be rehired at the school unless they are highly qualified and effective instructors, defined by students achieving learning gains on over a three year period."
We also asked the district Friday to provide an explanation for how this process would work for employees. Here's a piece of that email:
"Can you explain the process for affected employees? Are all employees going to reapply for their jobs? What happens to the principals? What factors are being considered - such as evaluations, student performance data, climate surveys - and how much weight is being given to those factors?
We are currently in discussions with PCTA with regards to retaining and recruiting the most high performing teachers to work in these five schools. The Turnaround Option Plan speaks to these areas. Principals, Assistant Principals, and Teachers may or may not be retained in these schools – such determination will be made in May-June. Factors to be considered would include, where available, student learning gains, student engagement data, student retention rates and student academic performance to ensure there was adequate evidence of potential effectiveness and strong alignment with the district's mission for the school – along with 2012 Performance Appraisal data. Highly Effective and Effective teachers who are strongly aligned with the district mission for the school will be recruited by the Principal to remain at the school. Those teachers that are Developing or Needs Improvement who are strongly aligned with the district mission for the school and have demonstrated substantial evidence of improvement may be interviewed by the Principal.
How have the staff members and parents been informed or will be informed?
We have a School Board Work Session scheduled for April 30th to discuss the Turnaround Option Plan and the timelines of implementation."
Here's Grego's letter:
I wanted to take a moment before a new workweek begins to clarify for staff at the five "turnaround schools" – Fairmount Park, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools and Azalea and Pinellas Park middle schools – the district's intent for the coming school year.
First, let me say that I value your commitment to your students, whether you are a member of your school's leadership team, its instructional team or its support services team. I realize that with the challenges you face in working with high need students, you are among the hardest working employees in the district, and I commend you for your dedication.
Unfortunately, your schools have not shown sufficient progress over the past few years, and as a result, the district is required by federal and state law to implement one of five "turnaround option plans" for the 2013-14 school year. The particular plan the district has decided to adopt is called the district-managed turnaround school model. In choosing that model, we are committing ourselves to turning these schools around rather than employing harsher options, such as reassigning students to other schools, closing the schools and reopening them as charter schools, or contracting with an outside entity for school oversight. We absolutely refuse to give up on these schools.
It's true that there could be some personnel changes at your schools both at the leadership and instructional level. But to say that you are in danger of losing your jobs, which has been implied in recent press coverage, is at best premature and at worst erroneous. While some principals and teachers may be asked to reapply for jobs at their current school, and while some may be offered opportunities at other schools, most principals and teachers, especially high-performing ones, should not be concerned about their jobs with Pinellas County Schools. The district is simply intent on staffing these high need schools with individuals who have a special talent for helping high need students, as the law requires.
I understand that this is a difficult time for you, and I assure you that the answers you seek will be coming soon. The School Board will be discussing how we will move forward at your schools in a workshop on Tuesday. Your Area Superintendents will be meeting with you after the workshop to explain where we are in the process and to answer any questions you may have.
Please keep in mind that while we will do everything we can to avoid disruption at the five turnaround schools, our main responsibility is to the children who attend those schools and their families. Our community expects us to take bold action to see that the students at these schools get the help they need. We should expect nothing less ourselves.
Thank you for your patience as I continue to work with our School Board and know that more details will be coming later this week.
Michael A. Grego, Ed.D.