Charter school parents fear their zoned schools, so what do Pinellas School Board members say?
One of the arguments dozens of parents made when they plead to the Pinellas County School Board to keep their beloved charter schools open was that their neighborhood schools are not suitable alternatives.
The parents of Windsor Preparatory Academy, East Windsor Middle Academy and Newpoint Pinellas Academy are now scrambling to make other arrangements should their schools close this fall, and some are even considering moving to find a school to their liking. They say their zoned schools are worse-off academically and incomparable when it comes to safety -- and they're correct.
School Board member Terry Krassner, who was principal of Westgate Elementary for 17 years and who is a product of Pinellas County Schools herself, calmly defended that school when it was called out by name by a parent at the meeting.
Referring to Westgate, "We have, and they still have, a family like what is sitting before me," she said.
Krassner sympathized with the parents and gave them hope that the school could work to remain open, but reaffirmed her faith in the public school system.
"Schools are as good as our parents and teachers and the relationships that are built," she added. "I’m hoping like you all that this will all work out, but if it doesn’t, wherever you are going with your children, you can make the same thing happen."
Board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea said the parents' opinions were valid but encouraged them to visit their zoned schools and work with the district's student assignment office and not base their decisions on hearsay.
"I understand they feel their options are limited because the application period is over," she said. "We're trying to really accommodate them as best we can."
Board member Janet Clark, a former exceptional student education teacher at Meadowlawn Middle, a school several of those families are zoned for, said parents "need to get out there and do their homework."
When it comes to the zoned schools' grades, "if that's all they're looking at to make their decisions, they're going about it the wrong way," she said. And as for discipline, which Clark questioned the charter schools' accountability in reporting incidents, she said perhaps a lot of the incidents could be just "kids being kids" situations.
"It's really hard for me to have an opinion on a school being good or bad," she said.