1. The Education Gradebook

For Pinellas teachers upset about evaluations, superintendent writes letter of explanation

Published Nov. 14, 2012

For the many Pinellas schoolteachers who got less-than-perfect evaluations this year, superintendent Mike Grego plans to write a letter admitting the evaluation system itself was, well, less than perfect.

Grego said he is preparing the letter and it will be available to any schoolteacher who wants to put it in his or her personnel file. For teachers who suddenly got lower evaluations, the letter will explain that the complicated new state-mandated system was a work in progress,

He made his comments Tuesday at a workshop meeting of the Pinellas School Board.

This will be the second letter Grego has sent about the controversial evaluations, which set off a wave of anguish among teachers who complained that the new system was not only harsh, but hopelessly confusing.

Grego last month told educators, "It is clear that we need to revisit the teacher appraisal plan that was submitted by our district to the state over a year ago." He also said that if it proves necessary, "We should work together with our legislators to adjust the statute."

Grego said school and teachers union officials are continuing to look at the new system and work on proposed changes. But in the meantime, he wanted teachers and administrators to have this letter, which might shed light on those with sudden drops in their evaluation grades.

School Board members generally supported Grego's approach. Board Chairwoman Robin Wikle said with all the questions surrounding the new system, it makes sense to more or less take "a mulligan."

Board member Linda Lerner wanted more. She said she visited a well-regarded school where she was told three-fourths of the teachers will be given a "needs improvement" rating.

"When you are a highly effective teacher or very effective teacher and you get 'needs improvement,' this is serious," she said.

She said she didn't want Grego to sugarcoat his message by making it sound like the new system just needs a little touching up. She called it "the first year of a very flawed instrument."

Lerner suggested the School Board further refine the wording of the letter for teachers, but others on the board disagreed.