"The choice is whether it's an across the board thing that that the governor proposed, or performance oriented," Clearwater area state Sen. Jack Latvala said to Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Mike Grego on Monday in Largo."What's the mechanism in place for performance evaluations? Would that be a good vehicle?"
The question arose after Grego was given an opportunity to address Latvala and the entire Pinellas County legislative delegation at their annual meeting with the community, in advance of this year's legislative session at the Pinellas Education Foundation.
Scott said he wants to dole out the pay raises to every teacher. But some lawmakers have chafed at the idea, saying increases should only be awarded to teachers who merit it.
That same philosophy was the basis of SB 736, the controversial merit-pay bill that Florida Republican lawmakers passed in 2010 but was vetoed by then Gov. Charlie Crist. A year later, the same Republicans retooled the bill and presented it for passage during the first two weeks of the session, where it was promptly signed by Scott.
That law calls for a new teacher-evaluation system that relies heavily on student test-score data. For new teachers, it also calls for a performance-based pay system and ends tenure-like job protections. However, it won't fully be phased in until 2014, as Grego explained.
"I believe we need to do that in that fashion," the Pinellas school chief said, adding that he can't wait for it to be implemented, but said it isn't just yet. "We need to break the mold," he said of the way the education system currently works, where a teacher's years experience affects the pay structure.
Paying particular attention to Grego's remarks was Carl Zimmerman, the recently elected Democratic House Representative from Clearwater, who's also a high school teacher. He agreed with Grego about parent complaints regarding the school year starting too late (usually in early September) to have the semester finish by late December.
"I believe local school boards should be given the authority (about) when to start school," Grego added. He also said that he'd like the ability to expand the hours of instruction in a school day and a school year for students who are struggling academically. "Students are competing with other students in the U.S. and around the world" he emphasized.