FEA, partners team up for teacher-driven project to improve schools

PALATKA – The Florida Education Association (FEA) announced this week the launch of a new teacher-driven initiative to improve public schools and help them better serve Florida’s students.
The program’s initial implementation focuses on five schools in Putnam County and was announced Tuesday at the county School Board meeting.

The Putnam Project unites four organizations — FEA, the Putnam Federation of Teachers-United (PFT/U), the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership and the Putnam County School District – in a collaborative, 16-month effort to improve schools. This pilot project is designed to build a sustainable model of school improvement based on good teaching practices and tailored to individual school needs, with the ultimate goal of providing all students in our public schools with the best possible education.

“At the FEA, we believe that the people who are closest to students should be the first people consulted in recommending actions to increase learning, and this project is built on that philosophy,” FEA President Joanne McCall told the School Board at its meeting in Palatka.

“Rather than trying to prescribe a set way to structure school improvement, our model begins at the school, asking teachers and staff what they see as the best part of their school and how they believe their school can be improved,” McCall said. “We can then tailor professional development courses to those needs using very skilled and capable teachers as facilitators for high quality, proven, evidence-based trainings.”

In collaboration with other project partners, the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership is providing coordination and oversight for the project, conducting school assessments, and developing and implementing professional development classes tailored for participating teachers.

The Schultz Center, based in Jacksonville, is a leading provider of professional development and leadership training for educators. Dr. Simmie Raiford, executive director of the Schultz Center, is leading the organization’s team on the project. She joined FEA President McCall and PFT/U President Mark Motl on Tuesday for the School Board presentation. Raiford is a second-generation public educator who has spent her career supporting high-quality teaching, learning and leadership in schools.

Work for Putnam Project began in May at five schools: C.L. Overturf Jr. Sixth Grade Center, Browning-Pearce Elementary School, Interlachen Elementary School, Melrose Elementary School and Robert H. Jenkins Middle School. The project will continue through September 2019.

The funding to support this work comes from a grant from the National Education Association’s Great Public Schools initiative.

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