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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Janssen's plan moves closer to passage, but issues remain



Pinellas superintendent Julie Janssen’s big plan to beef up the district’s academic programs moved another step closer to reality to today, with the school board offering a tentative thumbs up to most of it during a first reading.

“We’re real close,” board chair Janet Clark told The Gradebook after a 6-0 vote to hold a hearing for a final vote Dec. 7. (See the bottom of this post for the latest list of changes the plan would bring.)

But with the final vote looming, key questions remain unanswered, including what the future will look like at Lakeview Fundamental and Gulfport elementary schools and what top-flight academic program may land at Countryside High.

About a dozen parents, most of them from Lakeview, spoke against the part of the plan that would move a Montessori program from Gulfport to Lakeview Fundamental, and simultaneously convert Gulfport into a fundamental school after absorbing Lakeview.

“Do you not see the monumental devastation on the horizon?” said Lakeview parent Curt Miller.

"Lakeview is the success of integration in our county," said Lakeview parent Julie Menke. "It can't be forced on anybody."

Lakeview parents fear the merger will undermine success at one of the district’s highest-performing schools. Some of them also say the change won’t be good for many families whose children attend Gulfport, a high-poverty school with a majority black student body. A conversion to a fundamental school - which requires heavy parental involvement - changes Gulfport “in a way that will be extremely difficult for predominantly single-parent families to manage,” Miller said.

Janssen appears to have support from a majority of the board on the Lakeview/Gulfport switch. But member Linda Lerner voiced strong opposition and it remains to be seen how two new board members - Terry Krassner and Lew Williams - will vote. They’ll join the board next Tuesday.

The board also continued to debate what’s next for Countryside High. Janssen promised Countryside would get some kind of academically rigorous program, and that details would be ready before the final vote. District officials were scheduled to meet with Countryside teachers and parents tonight.

“Please do not leave us behind,” Countryside parent Stephanie Brown told the board.

The board is slated to discuss the unresolved parts of Janssen's plan at its next workshop Nov. 16.

Here's how deputy superintendent Jim Madden summed up the changes in a memo to board members shortly before the meeting:

By approving the recommended changes from the superintendent’s Student Achievement Proposal in the agenda item, the following significant items would change. The recommendations would apply to a 2011-12 implementation unless otherwise noted.

Countywide Application Process
• Applicants would rank their choices of programs.  They would pick their first through fifth choice beginning with the application period for the 2011-12 school year (page 2, lines 35-36).
• There will be 3 geographic regions for middle school application areas to be used for the 2011-12 application period for Centers for Gifted Studies (page 2, lines 40-47).
• There will be 3 geographic regions called application areas to be used for application to fundamental programs, magnets and career academies (page 2, lines 40-50 and page 3, lines 1-2).
• Priority status is being changed for school within a school programs from giving a sibling priority for allowance into a school, to a priority into the program, page 4, lines 29-33).
• Language that addresses school consolidations gives students from both schools a priority into the newly configured school if application is made to be at that school (page 5, lines 39-47 and page 6, line 1).

Fundamental School Program Structure and Procedures
• Adding Gulfport Elementary to the list of elementary schools (page 7, line 31). We need to add Kings Highway next to the elementary list on line 30.
• Adding the school within a school program at Boca Ciega and Dunedin High beginning in 2011-12 (page 7, lines 30-33
• Eliminating transportation for incoming sixth graders at Thurgood Marshall and ninth graders at Osceola High beginning in 2011-12.  Students currently at the schools would continue to receive transportation (page 8, lines 9-14 and page 9, lines 24-29).

Elementary and Middle School Magnet Program Structure and Procedures
• Creating a research and development school at Melrose Elementary (implied, not detailed, in agenda item page 19, lines 32-33).
• Placing the Montessori Program currently housed at Gulfport Elementary at Lakeview Fundamental site (page 20, lines 15-16).

High School Magnet Program Structure and Procedures
• Eliminating the existing two area application areas for IB programs (page 28).
• Recommending transportation areas for north, middle and south application areas for IB and Honors Option Programs (page 29, lines 8-10).
• Opening of Honors Options Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Programs in 2011-12 at Tarpon Springs, Clearwater and Dixie Hollins high schools.  The program would be open to students in each school’s zone for 2011-12 and become countywide by application areas in 2012-13 (page 29, lines 16-27).
• Establishing the guidelines for admission and continued attendance in the AICE Program (pages 34-35, entire pages).
• Creation of an Honors Option Program at Largo High School that will open in 2011-12.  This recommendation would involve the reduction of the size of the program currently housed at Palm Harbor University High School to approximately 375 students beginning with the entering ninth grade class in 2011-12, and continuing to full implementation in four years adding one grade level each year (page 44-45, entire pages).

• Adding the names of Centers of Excellence to the list of sites (page 52, lines 21-33).
• Recommending use of proposed geographic application areas for entry into the culinary programs at Tarpon Springs, Dixie Hollins and Northeast high schools (page 52, lines 38-42).

Timeline for other recommendations from the Student Achievement Proposal

Dress Code changes
• These recommendations will come as part of the revised Code of Student Conduct in the spring of 2011.

Zoning Implications
• Zoning changes will be presented for first reading in January 2011 with a second reading on February 8, 2011 as part of changes to Policy 5120.  The zoning changes are dependent on the school board’s vote on the Countywide Handbook on December 7, 2010.

Bell Times
• The 2011-12 bell schedule will be presented to the board at the February 8, 2011 board meeting.

Outstanding Items

Outstanding items from the Student Achievement Proposal that will be brought to the board upon further research (but not for implementation in 2011-12).
• Establishing PK-2 and grades 3-5 configurations
• Ninth grade centers

Outstanding items that will be brought to the board at the November 16, 2010 workshop for consideration at second reading on December 7, 2010.
• An academically rigorous program at Countryside High

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 8:17pm]


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