Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Pinellas School Board selects chair, vice chair (and discusses high school start times)

The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday held its annual organization meeting to select its chair and vice chair for 2018.

Board members didn't vote for a shake-up on the board. Peggy O'Shea and Rene Flowers switched roles as chair and vice chair.

Board member Terry Krassner nominated Rene Flowers, the current vice chair, for the position of chairwoman. No one else was nominated.

Superintendent Mike Grego said a "great majority" approved of the nomination.

Board member Carol Cook nominated Peggy O'Shea, the current chairwoman, for the position of vice chair. Board member Joanne Lentino was also nominated for the position by Eileen Long.

Grego asked board members to raise their hands for a vote. Board members Linda Lerner, Flowers, Cook and Krassner all voted in favor of O'Shea.

Quick note on school start times:

During the regular School Board meeting held Tuesday, Clint Herbic, the district's associate superintendent for operational services, said a task force has been created to look into later start times for high school students. The findings will be presented at a board workshop in January.

The group includes officials from the transportation department, the executive directors of elementary, middle and high school education, associate superintendent of teaching and learning Kevin Hendrick, athletic director Al Bennett and educational alternative services director Michelle Topping.

Herbic said commissioned studies show the district's bus system is "highly efficient," but said the goal of the task force was to tweak deficiencies to guarantee on-time delivery of students at school. He said the group is looking at freeing up routes to move high school start times.

The district's robust choice program plays heavily into busing logistics. Herbic said the district has 2,500 bus stops exclusively for choice programs, which account for 229 out of 441 routes.

"It is an extensive program," Herbic said. "It is a challenge to maintain that extensive program."

Superintendent Grego said he's had talks with concerned parents, who he said are "amazed at how complicated" school start times can be.

"I'm not on this committee and thankfully so because it is really a complicated issue," he said. "I know this board is really proud of it's choice program and I want to hang on to it."

Board member Krassner suggested school bus drivers could take buses home with them in between morning and afternoon routes. Herbic said he would explore that possibility.

Herbic said the district has not yet considered swapping elementary and high school start times like Hillsborough County has done.

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