Pinellas parents, students turn out in force to oppose IB move
Upset Pinellas parents and students continued to passionately press their case Tuesday night that one of the district's premier academic programs, the International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High, should not be moved to Countryside High.
"That program is an organism specific to its environment," IB junior Stephen Urchick said at a community forum attended by more than 300 people. "The plan you are proposing ... is decimation and decapitation. This is something you can't replicate."
The forum at Countryside High was the first of two community forums on Superintendent Julie Janssen's sweeping plan to give more students across the district better access to high quality academic programs. But it was clear as soon as visitors rolled into the parking lot that the majority were there to protest just one piece of that plan: the IB move.
More than a dozen IB students from Palm Harbor waved signs along the street, while others gathered on the walkway to the auditorium. Scores wore navy blue T-shirts that said "IB Part of the PHUHS Family." Inside, the audience cheered speaker after speaker who slammed the IB proposal.
"We are the No. 2 program in all of North America," IB student Courtney Clark said to raucous applause. "We feel like our feelings are not being listened to or appreciated by the school board."
"It's a huge mistake," said Liz Valletti, parent of a sophomore in the IB program. "We're absolutely in favor of replicating the IB program here (at Countryside) or moving another magnet here. But not at the expense of the students and the teachers at Palm Habor."
Six of seven school board members - all but Mary Brown - were in attendance along with Janssen, deputy superintendent Jim Madden and other top-ranking district officials. The board has scheduled an Oct. 28 workshop to consider input from tonight's meeting and the second one set for tomorrow night at Gibbs High.