Maligned teaching method to get overhaul

Published May 31, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - Pasco County school teachers did not welcome Learning Focused Strategies as superintendent Heather Fiorentino would have liked.

Some complained that the teaching method, which Fiorentino deemed the district's top academic priority, offered little more than warmed over best practices that they had used for years. Others griped that the requirements made their jobs too onerous.

The staff of Hudson Elementary filed a grievance against their principal over the way she implemented the program.

It would have been impossible for Fiorentino not to have heard all the harsh words. She could have ignored it all.

Instead, she put out a podcast to all teachers, aporlogizing and saying that while the district won't abandon LFS, the way it gets put in place will change.

"I acknowledge and admit that I've made some mistakes in the implementation of LFS, " Fiorentino said. "Yes, we did expand it too fast, and in doing so we created a variety of expectations for our staff and throughout the district."

There were problems with the quality of some of the training, she continued, and confusion about who should be trained and when.

She promised "dramatic improvements" over the summer to the way the district moves ahead with the system.

"We will not rest until we have the systems in place that will give you the support that you need to successfully implement LFS and the best practices in your classroom, " Fiorentino said. "We have listened and we are responding."

United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb, a frequent critic of the way Fiorentino put the $5-million system into practice, praised the superintendent for taking the stance she did.

"That sounds like a positive direction on the superintendent's part, " Webb said.

It was an easy decision to make, Fiorentino said.

"I had to acknowledge I've made some rmistakes, " she explained.

She nodded to the veteran teachers who have used many of the practices that LFS promotes. But two of every five Pasco teachers have 5 years or less experience, she said, and about 40 percent of those do not have education degrees.

"Not everyone knows what the best practices are, " Fiorentino said. "For us to take best practices and implement it districtwide, this was the best way to do it. Now we're implementing it the way it should have been done, in hindsight."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com 813 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4614. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.