1. Education

D-rated elementary school makes moves to satisfy state

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning sent a letter to the state Department of Education in early October proposing to move two teachers to different roles at West Zephyrhills Elementary School, rather than sending them to different schools.
Published Oct. 12, 2017

West Zephyrhills Elementary, the Pasco County School District's lone remaining D-rated elementary school, is working with the Florida Department of Education to reassign its teachers who have low value-added measure scores without creating an upheaval at the campus.

State lawmakers recently mandated that schools in turnaround status remove teachers with poor VAM scores or face possible sanctions.

In some districts, such as Duval County, that has led to the forced transfer of several teachers after the academic year had begun.

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning sent a letter to the state department in early October proposing a less-exacting action. He said the school would move the two affected teachers to different roles within West Zephyrhills, rather than sending them to different schools.

Browning added that the school already had done the same for two other teachers.

"These moves were based on the principal's review of their classroom practices and professional conversations in their professional learning communities with consideration of the strengths of the receiving team," Browning wrote.

West Zephyrhills has a new principal this year.

Browning added further that each teacher with a low VAM score at West Zephyrhills and Ridgewood High, another school that faces a turnaround plan if it does not improve its test results, would be assigned a mentor and required to attend added training to improve.

CHARTER CHAOS: One Pasco County charter school faces the threat of closure, and another could lose its funding stream.

Florida Virtual Academy at Pasco came under scrutiny during a School Board discussion of its annual performance review. Board Vice Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong noted that the charter — not to be confused with Florida Virtual School — had significant financial deficiencies and did not provide adequate details to the district.

The school also did not submit its state-required accountability report on time.

Armstrong said she wanted to make sure Florida Virtual Academy, which the board has warily watched since its unwelcome arrival in the district, at the very least meets its contractual obligations.

Browning said he would give the charter school the chance to improve. But the group, which has already been shut down in Hillsborough County and threatened in Pinellas County, would be put on notice, he said

"We are going to send a letter to them ... giving them a deadline," Browning told the board. "Failure to comply will result in a letter from the superintendent recommending they be shut down."

Browning also spoke of Pasco MYcroSchool, which anticipated opening with 250 students, but began the year with a dozen. As of Sept. 20, its enrollment was up to 30.

In the first two months of the fiscal year, the district sent MYcroSchool a quarter-million dollars in funding, based on the 250-student estimate. The amount is "far in excess" of what the school should have received for 30 children, Browning said.

"They owe us money back," he told the board.

The question is how to pursue it. The district staff is considering whether to allow the school some time, to see if more students arrive, or to demand repayment now. The latter move would likely drive the school to close.

ON THE MOVE: Debra Viggiano will become Sunray Elementary School's new principal, after formal consideration by the School Board on Oct. 17.

The board cannot reject the recommendation without specific cause, and almost never challenges administrative appointments.

Viggiano, 38, would be promoted from her post as assistant principal at Northwest Elementary School. She joined the district in 2006 as a teacher at Northwest, which is in Hudson.

She will replace Beth Hinton, who took over the principal's job at Sunray in 2015. Hinton left the district for the private sector, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or Follow @jeffsolochek.


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