Committee recommendations not necessarily the last word in Pasco school rezoning, superintendent says
Controversial recommendations to redraw middle and high school attendance boundaries in east and west Pasco County might see added changes before they get to the School Board on Dec. 20, superintendent Kurt Browning told the Gradebook.
"The message is, they are advisory committees," Browning said Wednesday, referring to the panels of parents and educators that have recommended maps for consideration. "I am looking at all the data, all the numbers, looking at the maps and making sure we achieved what we set out to do."
On the west side, that would be to ease crowding at Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle, in part by rebalancing enrollment into nearby under-capacity campuses. The option narrowly approved by that committee moved no students into Anclote High or Gulf High, after months of pressure from residents.
"The statement I made [to staff] was a rhetorical question: All of that for that?" he said. "There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth to move about 130 kids. It wasn't the 300, 400, 500 kids we had targeted."
On the east side, the goal was to fill the new Cypress Creek Middle-High School while removing enough students to get Wiregrass Ranch High off of its 10-period day. At the same time, the committee was to disrupt as few students, neighborhoods and feeder patterns as possible.
The committee's shock decision to abandon one map for a completely different one that did not jibe with initial administrative views forced Browning to reassess his comments that he had no intention of changing the panels' proposals.
"At the end of the day, the superintendent has a responsibility to make a sound recommendation to the board," Browning said. "It would be disingenuous of me to tell you absolutely I'm not going to move more students. I truly don't know yet."
Angry parents filled the School Board meeting on Tuesday to complain about the east Pasco committee's proposal, and to demand a closer look at the data underlying it. At the same meeting, parents happy with the changes sang the committee's praises.
Such passionate reactions had Browning expecting a massive crowd for the Dec. 20 board meeting, when the first public hearings on each will take place. He said he will recommend the board take up each rezoning separately, and allow up to an hour for each. (The one for Odessa-area elementary schools is not anticipated to take that long.)
Board chairman Allen Altman said he will determine the format of the hearing and announce it in advance, so interested residents can prepare.