1. The Education Gradebook

'New' staff of Lacoochee Elementary features many familiar faces

LAND O'LAKES — The restaffing of Lacoochee Elementary School will include 12 of the school's 26 classroom teachers who were forced to reapply for their jobs.

Lacoochee's art, music and physical education teachers also were invited to return for the 2013-14 academic year, along with five other teachers from Veterans, Cox and Cypress elementary schools.

Seven Lacoochee teachers who put in to keep their positions were not selected, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Wednesday. She would not provide any information on the criteria used to choose the staff, saying the administration did not want to reveal its hiring rubric while positions remain vacant.

"We are doing something we have never done before, and people are not comfortable sharing the details until we've gone through the process," Cobbe said.

Two weeks ago, superintendent Kurt Browning announced his plan to dismiss the entire academic staff at the school as part of a state-mandated turnaround plan, based on the expectation that Lacoochee would receive its third straight D. He said Tuesday that the effort "breaks my heart," but added that he's committed to breaking the cycle of low academic performance.

District supervisor Tammy Rabon said one of the remote, rural school's problems was its inability to attract and retain successful veteran teachers. Eleven of Lacoochee's 26 classroom instructors were new. To overcome this obstacle, the district offered signing bonuses of $2,500 to the new staff, with the possibility of another $2,500 for a second year and $10,000 for a third year.

Still, the district received 42 responses to its first ad for teachers, with more than half coming from Lacoochee's existing staff.

Interviews began before the ad closed on April 30, led by principal coach Kara Smucker and staffed by several elementary principals including Shirley Ray, who has reapplied to lead Lacoochee.

Hiring decisions were delivered late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Cobbe said five of the teachers who were rehired were first-year teachers. All of the successful applicants demonstrated their knowledge of Common Core standards and intervention strategies, as well as proof of their students' learning gains over time, she said.

The school still has nine open classroom teacher spots, as well as the jobs of guidance counselor, special education teacher, assistant principal and principal. A new ad for the teaching vacancies went up Wednesday.

Sam Foerster, Florida deputy chancellor of school improvement and student achievement, said it was too early to judge whether Pasco was meeting the state expectations for turnaround schools.

The State Board of Education has not approved the Lacoochee plan, which it will not receive for action until June. And Lacoochee has not received its third D yet.

The district's actions are "proactive" in anticipation of needing to change, he said.