The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is scouting for a new executive director to replace Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, who has accepted a job as a regional director for the American Federation of Teachers.
Rob Kriete, president of the Hillsborough union, said the organization will conduct a national search for Baxter-Jenkins’ replacement.
He described Baxter-Jenkins this week as “a social justice warrior” who leaves “big shoes to fill.”
Baxter-Jenkins, a 51-year-old attorney, spent more than a decade on staff with the union, which represents nearly 20,000 employees and has more than 10,000 members.
She arrived as the district was entering an ambitious teaching reform experiment in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Years later, when the Gates funding ran out and the district had to scale back on the program, Baxter-Jenkins handled the fallout, including disappointment in the ranks when pay raises had to be renegotiated.
Kriete commended Baxter-Jenkins’ accomplishments, including a new headquarters in a restored West Tampa cigar factory and a training center for teachers to work on their skills. Baxter-Jenkins also worked with district leaders to promote the half-cent sales surtax that voters approved in 2018, which is paying for upgrades in school air conditioners.
Members knew her as fiery negotiator who led them during impasse hearings.
“She is a loud voice and a great advocate for social justice, teachers, education,” Kriete said. “That’s who she is at her core and who she will always be.”
Baxter-Jenkins gave credit to her staff and members for the contributions that Kriete described.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to get know the hardworking people who serve the students in this district,” she said. “I truly believe it is the people who serve students every day that make this district what it is and it’s been my honor and privilege to represent and be an advocate for them individually and as a whole.”
She said she remains concerned about the ability schools have, at current state funding levels, to attract and retain educators who can meet students’ pressing needs.
“We can’t expect to attract highly educated professionals if we expect them to have to work multiple jobs to survive,” she said. “It continues to be vital to elect public school advocates who will fight for our students and communities.”
Kriete said Baxter-Jenkins is doing preparation work for this year’s teacher bargaining sessions. It is not yet clear if she will attend the meetings. But, as she is remaining with the national association, Kriete said, “She’s leaving but not leaving. She will always be a part of the union family and she will continue to work with us.”