New Pinellas board members may tilt balance on Lakeview-Gulfport merger
The Pinellas County School Board’s newest members wasted no time in making their presence felt Tuesday, voicing opposition to a key plank in the superintendent’s student achievement plan just hours after taking the oath of office.
In doing so, newly elected members Terry Krassner and Lew Williams may have tipped a board majority against Julie Janssen’s proposal to merge Lakeview Fundamental Elementary School in St. Petersburg and Gulfport Elementary into one, new, bigger fundamental school.
Many students now at Gulfport would end up in nearby schools that are already packed with high numbers of struggling kids, Williams said. “I’m having difficulties with that,” he said.
“If there are real significant reasons for a move, then go for it,” said Krassner, who worried about the disruption to families and staff at both schools. “But I’m not convinced.”
Janssen told The Gradebook after the meeting that the new members’ opposition made the chance for a merger less likely. But she said she would work hard to persuade them by the time the board votes on her overall plan Dec. 7.
“It’s iffy but I’m not done,” she said. “I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do.”
Last week, a tentative majority on the school board signalled support for the Lakeview-Gulfport merger, even as many Lakeview parents objected. But with former aboard members Nina Hayden and Mary Brown no longer in the mix, Krassner and Williams joined board members Janet Clark and Linda Lerner in raising concerns.
“Basically, you’re taking away a neighborhood school,” Lerner said about Gulfport. “I don’t think this is going to benefit Gulfport students.”
“I have a lot more negative feelings than positive at this point,” Clark said after the meeting.
The board will continue discussing the proposed merger at another workshop at the end of the month.