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Sarasota County crafts plan for at-risk schools

Ohanian Comment: I wonder if there's any research on whether a school ever recovers from such action. Take a school's staff and you take its history, its knowledge of the neighborhood. And, of course, this means a branding of all employees. What happens to them in future jobs? Does the brand follow?

SARASOTA COUNTY -- Teachers and staff at schools that receive D's or F's from the state will have to reapply for their jobs under a school district plan developed with the teacher's union.

The agreement, which was developed with a struggling alternative school in mind, would take hiring decisions away from principals at poor-performing schools.

It also allows the schools to use financial incentives -- possibly as much as $5,000 per year -- to lure teachers, according to union officials.

District and union officials are addressing the issue because of problems at the Phoenix Academy, an alternative school for struggling students in grades 8 to 10.

The school, which opened in August, matched mostly inexperienced teachers with one of the most difficult challenges in education: teaching disadvantaged students in a middle school setting.

Teachers this year struggled with classroom management, and they didn't always have the resources they needed. For example, an intensive reading program did not arrive until months into the school year.

Because many of the students read below grade level, officials are concerned that the school's FCAT scores will result in an F grade.

"We have never had an F school, but if we ever do, we need to have a mechanism in place to react quickly," said Scott Lempe, the district's executive director of human resources.

The idea behind teacher reapplications and incentives is to provide a way for struggling schools to be outfitted with fresh, committed staff. Experts say, however, that wiping out existing staff doesn't lead to long-term improvement in student performance.

District and union officials say the plan offers one way to improve struggling schools.

"The Phoenix Academy has us all worried, but suppose a major high school or elementary school were to become a D or F school," Dubin said. "We want to have something in place to turn a school around. We owe it to the community. If we have a problem, we need to fix it quickly."

Under the tentative plan, teachers and staff would reinterview for their jobs with a committee appointed by the superintendent.

District and union officials have yet to decide the makeup of the committee and other details such as incentive amounts, but officials plan to meet next week to complete the plans. Union members are expected to then vote on the proposal.


— Christina Denardo
Herald Tribune


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