Longtime Educator Working to Improve Communication from State to Teachers; She's a Teacher Liaison to the Education Commissioner

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

Kelly Seay was a teacher at a Tallahassee middle school just four weeks ago.

Now, the language arts teacher and reading coach is working for Florida Department of Education as a teacher liaison - and has become an adviser to Education Commissioner Eric Smith.

Florida has had a couple of other teacher liaisons since the position was created in 2006, but it's been under the radar enough that many teachers throughout the state didn't know about it.

Seay's setting out to change that.

A teacher for 15 years, first in Alabama and Georgia and for the past seven years in Florida, Seay, 38, said she wants to be an advocate for teachers - at a time when teacher effectiveness and how to evaluate it is a major part of national and state reform.

"I am your person," she said is her message to teachers. "I am your link to the department."

Chris Guerrieri, a science teacher at Ed White High in Jacksonville, said he never knew the state had a teacher liaison. But he said such a person could be helpful to teachers if they could help explain why the state does what it does.

"There's so much the state is telling us we have to do," Guerrieri said. "We see it as more work."

TELEVISION SHOW

He said he would like the liaison to show the teachers how two-page lesson plans, detailed data notebooks and other requirements positively impact the students.

Seay is doing monthly newsletters and a television show to give teachers information. They can also call or e-mail her directly, and she'll track down information.

The teacher liaison position used to be housed in the department's Public Schools department but is now in the communications department. Seay has easy access to Smith when either wants to discuss something.

In her month on the job, Seay said teachers have expressed concerns about implementation of the federal Race to the Top initiative and teacher evaluations. …