Gulfport/Lakeview merger put on hold
At this afternoon's workshop, a majority of Pinellas County school board members effectively put the kibosh on the superintendent's plan to merge Gulfport and Lakeview Fundamental elementary schools.
Janssen offered an alternative proposal at the workshop - leaving Lakeview as is, moving Gulfport's Montessori program into a re-opened Gulf Beaches elementary and transitioning Gulfport into a fundamental, beginning next year. But a majority of the board said no go, with board members Janet Clark, Linda Lerner, Lew Williams and Terry Krassner clearly in opposition.
For now, the proposal is off the table as a possibility for next school year.
Update at 7:51 p.m.: Board chair Carol Cook also offered an alternate proposal: Leave Lakeview intact; keep the Montessori at Gulfport; and phase a fundamental program into the remaining seats. But board members didn't go for that, either.
"Emails are flying. Everyone's ecstatic," Lakeview parent Steve Verano told The Gradebook a little bit ago. "It took me a few minutes to actually believe it ... I didn't get a feeling there was any give on the part of Dr. Janssen."
Janssen stuck to her guns until it was clear the majority wouldn't budge.
She said 75 to 80 percent of the traditional students at Gulfport would be able to handle a fundamental program if the district and perhaps others helped their parents understand what is required. She said the fact that so many students walk to Gulfport made it an even better candidate to go fundamental. "The parents are right there," she said.
Board member Robin Wikle was troubled by suggestions that Gulfport parents would not be able to handle the demands of a fundamental school. "I believe we're lowering the bar and not being fair to parents in the community (by assuming) that they're not capable," Wikle said. "We're saying that parents wouldn't be able to do those things. Parents can."
Williams countered that maybe a fourth of the traditional Gulfport parents could comply or would be willing to comply. He added, "There are students in that school that don't have an operating telephone number."
Clark said she was worried about where the struggling Gulfport students would end up. "As long as we're adding more and more fundamental seats ... we're going to end up with a couple of schools that are full of failures," she said. "That's where we're going."
"Do you save some of them?" said Wikle.
"I think you save more of them when they're spread out," Clark said. "I think kids learn by example ... if you have 28 good kids and two bad ones, eventually the peer group has an effect on them."
Update at 8:08 p.m.: To read more about the Gulfport/Lakeview merger, and about some of the other things the board discussed at today's workshop (Countryside High, Palm Harbor IB, etc.) go here.