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Gulfport parents want a fundamental school



Lakeview Fundamental Elementary parents dominated the debate over the proposed merger with Gulfport Elementary, and in the end they got what they wanted. But despite perception, Gulfport parents did want their school to go fundamental, and still do, writes parent Jennifer Salmon in a letter to the St. Petersburg Times.

If the district had a better process for gathering input from parents, that would have been clear, Salmon, who is also a Gulfport City Council member, told the Gradebook. We'll let her letter speak for itself:

Gulfport Elementary traditional students were denied a Fundamental program by the school board Monday because of an untenable plan that required two other programs (Gulfport Montessori and Lakeview Fundamental) to switch buildings in order for our larger traditional program to be converted to the successful Fundamental model. Gulfport Elementary has languished as a D or F school.

The Times needs to dig deeper into why Gulfport parents were not provided timely written information about the proposed changes and the Gibbs public meeting on October 13th. Why did Lakeview have a schoolwide meeting but Gulfport told parents it was not allowed? We started the game with a huge handicap. After the October 28th workshop, it was clear we needed to organize on our own. Three of us handed out non-partisan literature at the exit to the car circle to 150 parents encouraging them to contact the board or attend the daytime public hearing on November 9th. Most of these parents said they wanted Fundamental. Five of us asked the Board to change the plan to make it work for everyone. At the November 16th workshop when the two new members switched the balance against the plan, the Superintendent told me that if it did not pass, it will never be considered again. Gulfport is in its third year of “restructuring.” Is this three strikes, you’re out?

We lost time over Thanksgiving when the Superintendent had authorized a robo call survey which many people did not receive.This week we started a petition to change Gulfport to Fundamental, keep Montessori, and keep our very successful Exceptional Student Education PreK program. We had 18 signatures by Monday morning and 30 more Tuesday. The 48 families represented 64 students. We will continue to collect signatures.

The plan became a zero sum game when it could have been something so much better if the Board had held a listening tour before it was written. Instead, at least 400 children have been left behind and we have no assurance that anything more will be done for them. We lost this game because the naysayers said Gulfport parents can’t handle a Fundamental program because we are not involved in our children’s education. Every day, I see families who make sure their children are dressed in clean uniforms, ready to learn, and arrive on time. When I volunteer 5 hours each week in a traditional Kindergarten, I see smart children who are eager to learn and a creative and caring teacher who helps make it happen. These children and teachers deserve to be in an A or B school. The Fundamental program would have meant new leadership and adding new teachers who have experience with a more structured and effective learning environment. If we continue on the path we’ve been on, we have deserted our students. The school board still can and should do the right thing for Gulfport Elementary traditional students.

[Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 5:40pm]


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