A sweeping overhaul is on the horizon at Lacoochee Elementary School, following three straight years of low overall performance, a spokesperson for the Pasco County School District said Wednesday.
The district plans to remove the school's principal, assistant principal and all of its teachers. Tammy Rabon, Supervisor in the Office of Teaching and Learning, offered several reasons why the school is underperforming.
"We know that the characteristics of the school, the high poverty and its location have made it hard for us to maintain staff there," Rabon said during a news conference. She added many of the current teachers have done a good job, but are relatively inexperienced because of the high teacher turnover rate.
"That's not to suggest that new teachers aren't great teachers, they just don't have that proven record of success that the state of Florida is looking for," she said.
The Florida Department of Education requires such drastic changes as this after a school receives three consecutive "D" ratings. The DOE gave the district four options from which to choose: convert Lacoochee to a charter school; contract an outside managing company to run the school; close the building entirely; or come up with a district-run turn-around plan. District administrators chose the latter.
Rabon said the county will try to draw the best and most-experienced educators to Lacoochee by offering them bonuses: $2,500 in each of the first two years and $10,000 in year three.
Officials said no one will be out of work; every employee affected by the overhaul will be allowed to reapply for their jobs and those who aren't re-hired will be reassigned to another school.
"We're hoping this large incentive plan will keep more staff there, get them to make a commitment," Rabon said. "We are confident that we have already in place some effective measures to help the students in this school, to help the staff and to help the community achieve great levels of success. We just need a little more time than the turnaround plan provides us."
Lynne Webb, President of the United School Employees of Pasco, worries the changes are too drastic.
"I don't think it's fair. I don't think the DOE stepping at this point was fair," she said. "I think it was premature. They should have given them another year to work on the progress that they were already making."
Webb said the school was making progress and fears this will initially set Lacoochee students back further.
"That is certainly a concern that the school might go backwards before it goes forward," Webb said. "You have to rebuild a whole culture. To rebuild a whole culture within one year is not going to be an easy task and that school had one of the best cultures in our district."
Parents learned about the plan Tuesday when they received a letter from Superintendent Kurt Browning. One mother picking up her child at the school a day later was highly critical.
"I think they should give more time because they have showed their progress in the last two years. Why break them down now? They're doing good work in our community," said Camellia Haley, whose 5-year-old son is a student at Lacoochee. "It's devastating. My son knows this school. I have a rapport with the school. I can come up here and I feel comfortable."