Pasco school cutting entire staff after three years of 'D' grades

Teachers can reapply for jobs

LACOOCHEE, Fla. - A struggling Pasco County elementary school will undergo a complete overhaul.

District leaders are dismissing the entire staff in hopes of turning things around. Everyone is out, the principal, vice principal and 23 teachers.

Lacoochee is a small town in a remote part of Northeast Pasco. It includes some of the county's poorest neighborhoods and one of it's most troubled schools.

Because Lacoochee Elementary and it's 400 students are headed for a 3rd straight D-grade, the state requires something be done. So the district decided to clean house.

"It's devastating.  My son knows this school.  I have a rapport with the school.  I can come come up here," said parent Camellia Haley.

The district hopes overhauling the staff is a better alternative than privatizing or closing Lacoochee Elementary altogether.

First-year teacher Brittnye Vazquez says despite the changes, the staff is sticking together.

"It's pretty positive, for what's going on.  We just really feel that we are going to go out there and prove ourselves and do what we can," said Vazquez.

Challenges at the school include a high turnover rate among staff and students who live below the poverty level.

"We have a large Hispanic population, but we meet the needs of the kids the best we can and we are working to improve that instruction daily," said principal Shirley Ray.

Everyone at Lacoochee will have the chance to re-apply for their jobs. If they don't come back, they'll be moved to another school.

"No one will be unemployed because of this turnaround plan," said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

To attract top teachers, the district will give never-before-offered incentives, including $2,500 in each of the first two years and $10,000 if you stay on for a third year.

"That will help.  That will help some, but don't get rid of the ones that are here. Give them a bonus for the hard work they are doing," said Haley.

Vazquez said she would "Absolutely" reapply to stay.  "This is where my heart is.  This is where my home is, absolutely."

Officials say they've already put three of their best teaching coaches into the school and have seen improvements, just not fast enough for the state.

Lacoochee was an 'A' school in 2009, but standards have gone up since then.

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