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Editorial: Sharper focus on struggling Hillsborough schools

MONICA HERNDON   |   Times Jeff Eakins, superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools speaks during a media visit in September at Westchase Elementary School in Tampa.
MONICA HERNDON | Times Jeff Eakins, superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools speaks during a media visit in September at Westchase Elementary School in Tampa.
Published Mar. 8, 2019

The Hillsborough County School District's new plan for improving struggling classrooms is appropriately ambitious. With millions of dollars in teacher bonuses, and a sharper focus on everything from performance data to cultural issues, the district is taking a comprehensive approach toward improving dozens of troubled schools.

Schools superintendent Jeff Eakins unveiled the plan last month, and it includes $17 million to recruit teachers into so-called Achievement Schools. About 3,000 teachers at the high-needs schools will earn bonuses ranging from $3,600 to $7,500 beginning next school year. That amount could be higher if a teacher achieves national board certification.

The district also is directing more resources to struggling schools, making literacy a priority and looking to better stabilize the campuses by retaining teachers and providing a more holistic learning environment. While the School Board unanimously approved the plan, several members were rightly skeptical. Teachers need to have clear expectations, principals must be held accountable and administrators must be open with the public. This must be more than a branding exercise.

Still, a quality learning environment begins with capable, motivated teachers - and in that sense, the initiative is off on the right foot. The district should provide these campuses the support they need and change course or personnel if the plan doesn't produce results. But the district's driving motivation is sound - the need to serve every student.