Polk County

Beloved football coach among 94 teachers let go in Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla (WFLA) - A long time coach at Kathleen High School in Lakeland is among those the school district let go this week.  Coach Irving Strickland was a graduate of Kathleen and spent 18-years as an educator at the school.  Newschannel Eight featured Coach Strickland in a Team of the Week segment in October of 2015, when he told our crew he was still giddy on game night.  "Being a graduate and an alumnus of Kathleen High School.  I still get goosebumps every Friday no matter who we're playing."

But, this week, the school's athletic director informed staff members there were changes in the works and sent out the following letter:

Please see the coaching announcement below.

Anthony Troutman has been named the new head football coach at Kathleen High, effective today (July 11).

Mr. Troutman previously served as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Kathleen High as well as a longtime assistant coach.

He replaces Irving Strickland, who could no longer serve as head football coach due to his teaching certification status with Polk County Public Schools.

Mr. Strickland is one of approximately 94 teachers no longer employed by the district because they were unable to pass the required Florida Teacher Certification examinations by the specified deadline (per State Statute and school district policy).

We appreciate the contributions and service of Mr. Strickland and these other teachers during their employment with PCPS. We welcome Mr. Troutman in his new role and wish him success.

Annissa Wilfaulk, with the Polk County School District Human Resources Department explains, the teacher certification test is a requirement by the state and if teachers forget to take the test, elect not to take it, or don't pass it, they are let go.  That was the case with Coach Strickland and the other employees.

Wilfaulk says it's not like a pop quiz or a surprise test.  "You know it's coming, I know with the new system with the DOE (department of education) they are sending notification to teachers a year ahead . so that they know .. their deadline is coming up," said Wilfaulk who adds, the test is not a new addition to the educator's curriculum.  "This has been a requirement by the department of Education for as long as I can remember, so it's a requirement that anyone who holds a certificate is required to fulfill."

Late Thursday afternoon, the school district sent out a clarification saying, in the coach's situation, he was already given an extension.  "Mr. Strickland's teaching certifications expired in 2016. He was working as a provisional substitute with the understanding that he had to obtain a temporary teaching certificate by June 30, 2018, however he did not fulfill that requirement."

Wilfaulk adds, any teacher who was employed by the district and let go, can retake the state test.  If the employee receives a passing grade, he or she can reapply with the district.  District officials are also now looking for dozens of applicants to fill those vacant positions.

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