Local teachers file lawsuit over evaluation legislation

By on April 16th, 2013

Janine Plavac and Kim Cook are part of a movement.

Plavac is a Gainesville High School health teacher and Cook is a first grade teacher at W. W. Irby Elementary School. Both women are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed against the state and three local school boards.

McCann said the teachers are challenging the Student Success Act, which stems from Senate Bill 736 detailing the effects of these evaluations.

Passed in 2011, the Student Success Acts allows for teachers to be evaluated based on the performances of students they don’t teach or in subjects they don’t teach.

While this is a federal lawsuit, Hernando, Escambia and Alachua County school districts are specific targets.

The lawsuit is backed by the National Education Association and the Florida Education Association. Alachua County Education Association President Karen McCann says the lawsuit’s platforms is that the evaluation system violates teachers’ constitutional rights, specifically their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

“We need to go back, look at it again and make the law in Florida a fair way to evaluate teachers,” McCann said. “Obviously, evaluating someone on something that they have no control over is not fair.”

Alachua County Public Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said the district is evaluating the lawsuit before making any comment about it.

McCann also said she doesn’t think enough attention was being paid to the evaluation legislation before it became law, as teachers were ignored when they pointed out the flaws.

“It was never overlooked,” McCann said. “Teachers and people in the Florida Education Association tried to point out the flaws in it, but no one was listening.”

She said she hopes this lawsuit will benefit not only Alachua County and Florida teachers, but also teachers across the country.

“They just want equity,” McCann said. “They want to be evaluated in a fair and equitable manner.”

McCann said Alachua County Public Schools did not have any control over altering the evaluation process as the county was mandated by the passage of Senate Bill 736. Once the bill became a state law, the school system was forced to comply with its provisions.

“I think it’s important to know that there’s not really animosity on our part against the school board,” McCann said. “They were merely carrying out the law that they felt obligated to carry out.”

Mike Llerena wrote this story online.

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