New staff at 5 failing Pinellas schools for 2013-2014

3:53 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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PINELLAS PARK, Florida -- Students at five Pinellas schools will be seeing new teachers and administrators next year.

Three schools are "F" schools: Maximo Elementary, Melrose Elementary, and Azalea Middle School. There are also two "D" schools, Fairmount Park Elementary and Pinellas Park Middle.

It's not as drastic as some of the other options, such as turning the schools into charter schools, hiring a private company, or closing the school. The superintendent instead picked a district managed turnaround plan. The district estimates 313 teachers will be impacted, 69 at Pinellas Park Middle, along with three administrators, the principal and two assistant principals.

Not everyone thinks this is the best plan to fix the school's problems.

Three years ago, Pinellas Park Middle School received media attention for scenes like the one of several girls fighting on school property. The video showed up on YouTube.

During the first six months of the 2010-2011 school year, 50 students were arrested. Has much changed since then?

"There are fights, no one is getting along," says 7th grader Randy Rivero. Randy says student fighting is seen daily. "When you go to each class, fight starts, or going to lunch."

While the number of student arrests has improved, the school grade remains a "D." That means the state has ordered the district to take action with Pinellas Park Middle and four other failing schools. The plan calls for dismissing all teachers and administrators. Some will stay, others will be reassigned.

Melanie Marquez Parra, spokesperson for the Pinellas School District, says, "There will be teachers and administrators who are the right fit for these schools. [They] will stay and advance the mission to serve students the way they need to be served."

The schools have a high number of students on free and reduced lunch. The district will look at teacher performance in picking a new staff.

Marquez Parra says, "Learning gains will be examined. Do they have the right talents to serve children in these schools?"

Randy and his mother disagree with the district's plan. They don't blame the faculty or administrators for the school's failing grade. Randy's mother, Alba Meza, says, "They'll never improve it until parents do their part to discipline their kids."

"My mom is always checking up on my grades, making sure I go to tutoring if I need help," says Randy. "I don't think it's the teachers fault for how the school is right now."

The district will offer new teachers and administrators recruitment bonuses starting at $3,000. That bonus will go up each year they decide to stay at the school, up to $6,000.

The Pinellas school board will discuss the turnaround plan for these five schools at a workshop tomorrow morning. School officials say the first step is to select a new principal for each school. That will happen in the next week.     


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