Krissy Gentry, a popular teacher at Port St. Joe Elementary School and one deemed “high impact” by the Florida Department of Education, has been reinstated.
Gentry was suspended without pay in April for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year by the Gulf County School Board, at the recommendation of Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton.
She was suspended over allegations ranging from the use of a cell phone in the class to gross insubordination.
She was forced to undergo a “fitness for duty” evaluation before returning to the classroom.
“I am convinced she is fit for duty,” Norton said Monday. “It is my recommendation she be reinstated.”
Gentry, who has taught several grades at PSJES and was teaching fourth grade during the last school year, will return to a third-grade classroom.
She had been suspended just prior to the spring break and just as the district was poised to undertake Florida Standard Assessment testing.
Her suspension without pay is the subject of complaint by Gentry now in binding arbitration with the district.
A hearing date has yet to be set.
The acrimony and controversy over Gentry’s suspension has been cited by district officials as possible one factor in the school receiving a “C” grade from the FDOE last month.
Norton said the elementary school is a “B” school at least and has contended since grades were released that Port St. Joe Elementary School will be an “A” school within the next two years.
The allegations against Gentry originated in a March 15 weekly journal entry by Florida State University student-intern.
The intern wrote of concerns about Gentry’s classroom teaching and questioned her decisions regarding adhering to lesson plans and subject matter.
She wrote that Gentry had only passing core subject instruction during the week in question, teaching “life lessons” during which “she rambled on about life.”
That “life lesson thing” continued over two days, with Gentry talking about guns, shooting animals and people.
According to the intern, Gentry cautioned students not to tell anyone what had been discussed in class as it would upset parents or the principal.
Much of the classroom discussions were against the backdrop of the Feb. 14 massacre at Parkland School in South Florida.
According to the district’s investigation, teachers had been instructed not to delve into the school shooting.
The intern’s concerns were taken to Principal Joni Mock who took them ultimately to Norton.
Norton, alarmed by allegations that Gentry had told students not to tell anyone about classroom discussions, said he was duty bound to investigate.
The investigation was turned over to a Tallahassee attorney.
After conducting interviews and reviewing documents, the attorney sustained the allegations against Gentry; in several cases basing conclusions solely on body language and responses he concluded indicated Gentry was not being truthful.
The attorney issued a 12-page report outlining the allegations and his findings.
After hearing 30 minutes of praise for Gentry during an April meeting, the board followed Norton’s recommendation.
As speaker after speaker stated, Gentry was “well-loved” and “well-respected” within the school and community.
Gentry has twice been voted by her peers the school’s teacher of the year in the past seven years and was deemed “high impact” by the state, one fewer than 10 district teachers so ranked.
Gentry has also been instrumental in establishing student organizations to address bullying.
Further, as many noted in the spring, Gentry is the current president of the Gulf County Education Association, the union representing teachers and all district employees.