USF and school districts at odds over the future of the College of Education

Pinellas County

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pinellas County School Board adopted a resolution voicing concern about the future of the University of South Florida’s College of Education.

The resolution states USF is looking to restructure the college and drop its undergraduate teacher’s program because of budget cuts. Superintendents from local school districts who pull teachers from the program are upset.

The Interim Dean for USF’s College of Education Judith Ponticell spoke to 8 On Your Side about the resolution.

She said the resolution adopted at the school board meeting Tuesday unanimously publically shows the school district’s concern but that it isn’t quite right. Now, she’s asking the Superintendents’ to bring those concerns to her directly.

“I have as yet to have all but one superintendent who has reached out for a personal conversation with me. And I invite that conversation, I welcome that conversation,” said Ponticell.

At Tuesday’s meeting Superintendent, Dr. Michael Grego made this statement on behalf of school leaders in Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties:

“We stand with a united voice for a public tax-funded university whose major mission is to supply the baccalaureate needs of their footprint,” Dr. Grego said.

The resolution states Pinellas County hires 600 teachers a year from that program, 25% of their new teacher hires.

Dr.Grego said USF recently announced their intention to close its undergraduate teacher preparation programs.

“Very surprising and shocking announcement,” Dr.Grego said.

But Ponticell said that’s not quite right.

“The decision is in the process of being formed. The plan for what we will look like is just in the beginning,” Ponticell said.

Ponticell said over the next two years the college is facing a $6.8 million budget cut and is planning to focus on their graduate program. She said their undergrad education enrollment has decreased 63% over the past decade.

8 On Your Side asked Ponticell when USF would make a decision.

“There’s a difference between a decision being made and a plan being presented,” Ponticell said.

Ponticell said college faculty will present a plan to the USF Provost by Dec. 18.

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