DeSantis visits PHU

Pinellas County Superintendent of Schools Michael Grego speaks during a news conference March 31 at Palm Harbor University High School where Gov. Ron DeSantis, far right, announced a proposal to give teachers and principals $1,000 bonuses.

PALM HARBOR — During a visit to Palm Harbor University High School on March 31, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a proposal to provide $1,000 bonuses to public school principals and full-time classroom teachers.

The funding for the bonuses would be $216 million from the third round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund provided by the federal government.

The proposal would provide a bonus to more than 3,600 public school principals and nearly 180,000 full-time classroom teachers, he said, adding he is asking the Florida Senate and House of Representatives to include the $216 million appropriation in their respective budgets.

“The past year included so much uncertainty for our state’s students, parents and educators,” he said. “In Florida, we knew how important it was for our students to return to school, and our principals and teachers answered the call. I urge the Florida Legislature to join me in awarding our great educators through this bonus program as a show of gratitude for their actions and hard work.”

The news conference featured some of those teachers from PHUHS. Others who spoke included Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego and state Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran.

“The governor’s proposal is just one way we can show our appreciation to our hard-working teachers and principals who guided Florida through these immense challenges, and I look forward to the Legislature making it a reality,” Corcoran said.

Last year, DeSantis secured a $500 million investment to raise the minimum salary for teachers, and his budget recommendation for fiscal year 2021-2022 includes an additional $50 million to continue raising the minimum.

Corcoran also heaped praise on the Pinellas County school district’s leadership, calling Grego “the LeBron James of superintendents.”

“He’s on speed dial at our office,” he said. “The entire department has him on speed dial. There’s rarely a day that goes by that we don’t call up Mike Grego and say this is what we’re thinking, this is where we’re headed, give us your input. And his input is second to none.”

Grego reciprocated the praise, touting the effective partnership with the Department of Education that allowed the district to be fully operational by August.

He also highlighted the efforts of teachers, who he said have been at the center of this journey and will continue to lead the way.

“We in Pinellas County have the vast majority of our schools — 85 to 95% — in-person learning face to face with many of them over 90% learning face to face,” he said. “We’re excited about the plans of the future. We’re excited about this robust summer program that we’re going to be holding in June and July.”