Scott visits GHS, touts raise for teachers


Florida Gov. Rick Scott walks with Gainesville High School Principal David Shelnutt during a visit to the school campus on Thursday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.

A day after proposing a $2,500 raise for all full-time public school teachers in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott dropped by Gainesville High School on Thursday to meet with students and officials — and to have his blood pressure tested.

Scott spent part of the morning touring the school's Academy of Health Professions with local school officials, an event that was closed to the media. Photos released later by the school district showed the students checking the governor's vital signs.

Scott told a crowd gathered outside the school that the plan to give teachers raises, which will be included in his budget request to the Legislature, is part of his plan to move Florida schools forward.

"We've got to make sure we compensate our teachers well and keep them here engaged with our students," he said.

The governor stopped to talk to senior health academy student Shannon Patrick about her studies. Patrick, 17, later said she was happy that Scott has expressed his support for teachers, saying she's thankful for the teachers she's had in the program.

"More funding would mean more possibilities for students in the health fields here," she said.

Karen McCann, president of the Alachua County Education Association, called the proposed pay raises a good starting point after years of stagnant salaries and cuts to education.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," she said. "There's been a lot of damage that has been done to the education community over the last few years."

McCann brought her concerns to Scott, asking if the raise was only limited to classroom teachers. She said he reassured her that the increase applies to all instructional personnel.

Some in the education community had hoped that Scott would use his local appearance to shed some light on another important issue: His role in persuading Bernie Machen to stay on as president of the University of Florida.

But Scott declined to directly address the issue.

"The board of trustees and the Board of Governors make those sorts of decisions," he said. "But I'm glad that he's going to be here."

Officials have said that Scott's commitment to UF will be revealed once he rolls out his full budget proposal, which is expected next week.

Since Machen's surprise decision to stay on as president was announced on Jan. 8, speculation has swirled about how and why Scott got involved just as interviews were about to begin with applicants for the position.

Scott's office has since confirmed that he met with Randy Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University and a potential candidate for the UF job, and Machen before asking Machen to stay in the job he has had for nine years.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting organization for UF, has since expressed interest in Scott's role in the decision.

Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or joey.flechas@gvillesun.com.

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