Lacoochee Elementary School not losing all staff in overhaul
LACOOCHEE - Students at Lacoochee Elementary School will still see plenty of familiar faces on the teaching staff this fall, despite a major school turnaround effort that could have led to a complete staff overhaul. After an initial round of job interviews at the academically struggling school, the district has decided to rehire 12 Lacoochee classroom teachers, along with the art, music and physical education teachers, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Thursday. Those hiring decisions came just two weeks after the district announced that Principal Shirley Ray, Assistant Principal Sherri Dunham and every teacher at the school would need to reapply for their jobs because of the school’s poor test scores.“We never anticipated really that every single person would be gone from that school,” Cobbe said. “But they did have to bring evidence they were effective teachers.” In addition to teachers who will stay on, Lacoochee is hiring two classroom teachers and a speech/language pathologist from Cox Elementary, a classroom teacher from Veterans Elementary and a classroom teacher from Cypress Elementary. But the work is not finished. The district is advertising 14 jobs at the school, which has been forced into the turnaround plan because it faces its third year as a D school under the Florida Department of Education’s grading system. Instructional jobs still to be filled are seven classroom teachers, two varying exceptionalities teachers, two intervention teachers, one graduation-enhancement teacher, one guidance counselor and one teacher who is dual certified in elementary education and exceptional student education. The deadline to apply is Wednesday. To entice high-performing educators at other Pasco schools to apply, the district offers a pay supplement of $2,500 annually the first two years and a $10,000 supplement for those who stay a third year. Any Lacoochee teachers who are displaced are expected to be transferred to other Pasco schools. Kara Smucker, a district principal coach, has been handling the job interviews with the help of other administrators. Both the principal and assistant principal jobs were advertised, but so far there has been no movement on those positions because the district wants to get the teaching staff taken care of first, Cobbe said. “That’s our priority right now,” she said. Ray applied for her principal job. The district received just one other application, and that was from someone who doesn’t work for the district, Cobbe said. Dunham reapplied to be assistant principal, and, so far, she is the only applicant. Lacoochee is a Title I school, which means it is eligible for extra federal funding because most of the students come from low-income families. Nearly 95 percent of the 409 students qualify for the free or reduced-price meal program, and 73 percent of the students are minorities. The school was an A school in 2009 but has struggled recently. It was a D school in 2011 and 2012, and the district expects it to be a D school again when the state releases grades in the summer. That’s why a turnaround plan is necessary. After a meeting with DOE representatives, the district decided on the staff makeover rather than the other school-improvement options, which include transforming the school into a charter, hiring a private management company to run it or closing the school altogether.