Another skirmish over Janssen's student achievement plan
A lot of ink has been devoted to the big flare-ups over Superintendent Julie Janssen’s student assignment/achievement plan – the battles over Palm Harbor University High’s IB program, the Gulfport/Lakeview merger, the proposed uniform policy. But behind the scenes, another fire was threatening to rage when it was quietly snuffed out – at least for now.
Parents and teachers at Southern Oak Elementary in Largo began mobilizing in late October when they realized Janssen’s plan to merge that school with neighboring Walsingham Elementary was on the fast track. Janssen announced at the Oct. 28 workshop that the plan was on hold until next year, but the process has left many frustrated.
“They didn’t know. They thought it was just being brainstormed,” board member Linda Lerner, who met with teachers from both schools in late October, told The Gradebook. “The attention went to the higher profile issues. It was buried. Maybe it was in a power point on the (district web site), but you know, teachers weren’t directly told this is on the plan next year, for your schools.”
After meeting with Lerner, teachers and parents at Southern Oak quickly rallied against the proposal, which would have created a grades K-2 school at one site and a grades 3-5 school at the other. Sixty-five staffers and nearly 120 parents signed petitions. They sent them to school board members right after the work shop.
Lerner said the brakes were put on because of logistics. Both schools share the same access road, and there are drop-off and pick-up issues even with different school times. “Within two minutes (of meeting with the teachers), I knew why logistically this had to be put on hold,” Lerner said.
The district says it will study those issues next year.
In the meantime, concern remains about how the merger will affect the schools academically – and whether research backs up the need for a change.
“The initial proposal for the merger was made without proper research to validate it” and could have been approved “without proper communications with all stakeholders involved,” Southern Oak kindergarten teacher Tasha Johnson wrote to Janssen Nov. 15. Postponing the decision “only makes have to sit back and worry that the school board will try to push this through in a year. And all we can ask is … why?”