Principals at three of five underperforming Pinellas County Schools will be replaced next month and move into high-performing schools.
In a drastic move aimed at turning around the schools Azalea Middle, Maximo Elementary, Melrose Elementary and Fairmount Park Elementary in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park Middle – the school district removed the principals and instructional staff members and told them to reapply for their jobs. The schools have performed poorly for years on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and Azalea, Maximo and Melrose are F schools. The other two are D schools.
Nanette Grasso will move from Orange Grove Elementary to Melrose Elementary, whose principal, Christine Porter, will take her place. Benigna Pollauf will move from Northwest Elementary to Fairmount Park Elementary, where Principal Cooper Dawson will move to North Shore Elementary.
David Rosenberger, principal of Clearwater Fundamental Middle, an A school, will replace Robyn Witcher at Pinellas Park Middle.
Those changes will be completed by June 10.
Connie Kolosey, principal of Azalea Middle, and Randi Latzke, the principal at Maximo Elementary, will keep their jobs.
Orange Grove Elementary, an A school, and Northwest Elementary, a B school, do not have the high levels of poverty found at all five of the schools being targeted for improvement, and their principals have strong support from teachers, according to school district surveys.
“These principals have a desire to serve, and they really are excited about meeting new challenges,” said schools Superintendent Michael Grego.
“When you have a high level of poverty at a school, it presents challenges and provides experience to folks that have done that job. So that switch will work for both. It provides the nurturing growth of one and the experiences of the other and makes a good fit.”
Though the appointments, added to the agenda minutes before Tuesday’s School Board meeting, were not discussed at the meeting, they were heavily vetted and don’t reflect a lack of confidence in the principals removed from the struggling schools, School Board member Rene Flowers said.
In fact, most teachers at the five turnaround schools hold high opinions of their principals and say problems can be tied to a lack of support from parents and the school district, according to school district surveys.
Nevertheless, Grego attributed at least some of the blame for the schools’ failures to their principals at a School Board workshop this month, saying they had “known for a while” their schools were in trouble and had time to turn them around.
Grego still needs to find a replacement for Rosenberger at Clearwater Fundamental Middle. He did not say what would happen to Witcher, Pinellas Park Middle’s outgoing principal, but said it is unlikely anyone removed from any of the turnaround schools would be out of a job.
The School Board also gave Grego two top-level assistants. William Corbett will move from being the Area Two superintendent to being the deputy superintendent and will have Grego’s authority in his absence. Corbett will work primarily in budgeting and staffing.
Lori Matway, the education and government services managing director for the city of St. Petersburg, was named associate superintendent of student and community services, where she will help secure grant funding and form partnerships with community organizations.
According to school district documents, the deputy superintendent will make at least $100,740 a year, and the associate superintendent of student and community services will make $93,278 a year.