PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael A. Grego announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2021-2022 school year on Thursday.
Grego said his last day will be on July 1, 2022. He's wrapping up a 42-year career in public education.
Grego has led public school systems through the great recession, 9/11, hurricanes, school security talks following the Parkland school shooting and a global pandemic.
Grego has spent 10 years working as the Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.
Grego said he feels the time is right to step down as the Pinellas County School District is at its best point. The graduation rate is now the highest of any large district in Florida, more students are taking college-level courses and he told ABC Action News the district has helped close the achievement gap for students from diverse backgrounds.
Incoming teacher Alyssa Hun hopes the next leader will continue to improve technology and continue to close the racial achievement gap.
“It’s extremely important because we need to make sure that all of our students have the same opportunities,” Hun said.
Grego said while the COVID-19 pandemic has been an obstacle for school districts globally, it did not play a role in his decision to retire.
“We kept our schools open and cared for our children and the learning losses that we may have seen to a greater extent wasn’t seen in the state of Florida. It was difficult but it was also very rewarding. People have asked me was it the pandemic that drove you over the top to retire and my answer is absolutely no,” he elaborated.
Grego said the pandemic helped the district roll out new technology and find new ways to get students engaged in education while also keeping them safe.
The incoming superintendent will also need to focus on teacher recruitment, according to Nancy Velardi of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.“Many are leaving the profession. More people are leaving the profession than has ever been seen before,” she explained. Velardi hopes the next leader will continue incentivizing educators to stay on board. “Teaching is one of the most important professions there is and when we get good people, we want them to stay in Pinellas,” she added.
Grego doesn’t see challenges, but opportunities, for his successor.
“I see an opportunity to redefine and re-imagine public education and changes in the way it delivers its curriculum. I have all confidence in the world that we will find the right person and we certainly will hold that hold that person accountable,” Grego said.
“Pinellas County Schools is an exceptional district because of the amazing staff, students, families and community that work together to achieve excellence. I am so proud of our collective accomplishments over the past ten years,” Grego shared. “Together, we have taken a district that desperately needed stability and brought a renewed focus on student achievement, district and school operations, facility modernizations and fiscal discipline. Collaboratively, we developed one of the highest achieving, most productive, accomplished and student-centered districts in the state and nation. But, like all great relay races, it is time to pass the baton. I am excited to watch the race continue at what I know will be an even greater pace of improvement," he added.
During Dr. Grego's ten years as a superintendent, the overall graduation rate increased from slightly under 70% to 92%.
"The Black graduation rate rose from 56 percent to 86.3 percent and the Hispanic graduation rate increased from 64 percent to 92 percent. Students with disabilities increased their graduation rate from under 40 percent to 83.8 percent and English Learners advanced from 48 percent to 91 percent."
In addition, the district, under Dr. Grego's leadership, "eliminated over 20 D and F schools, and has increased the number of A, B and C schools."
“Dr. Grego has done a truly outstanding job making Pinellas County Schools a national leader in public education,” said current School Board Chair Eileen Long. “I have served with Dr. Grego over the last five years and know he has given his all to the students and staff of Pinellas County Schools. He has served with honor, integrity and above all heart, and has always led with what is best for the students. I am deeply saddened by the news, but I know Dr. Grego is leaving our district in a much better place than when he started, and I am confident our next superintendent has an exceptional foundation to continue our progress. Dr. Grego will be greatly missed, and I wish him much happiness in his retirement.”
As Dr. Grego's final day nears, the Pinellas County School Board said they will discuss and finalize a process to select a new superintendent. Information about the process will be posted at www.pcsb.org/superintendent.