Pinellas school board signals yes to smaller Palm Harbor IB and Gulfport/Lakeview switch
In a workshop this morning, a majority of Pinellas school board members offered two important but tentative thumbs up to key planks in Superintendent Julie Janssen's sweeping student assignment/achievement plan.
A majority said they backed Janssen's proposal to move the Montessori program from Gulfport Elementary to Lakeview Fundamental Elementary and to transfer Lakeview students into Gulfport to start a new, bigger fundamental school.
A majority also indicated support for a compromise that Janssen offered in place of her initial plan to move the IB program out of Palm Harbor University High - that is, keep it at Palm Harbor but slim it down over time from its current enrollment of about 550 to about 375.
"I don't see it as breaking up the family; I see it as a family moving to a new house," board member Carol Cook said about the Lakeview-Gulfport switch. "That's not to say there isn't angst involved."
"We have a responsibility to provide seats, classrooms for the students that are zoned in the Palm Harbor area," said board member Robin Wikle in explaining why she supported the IB compromise.
Today's head nods mean Janssen's overall plan - an attempt to give more students across the district access to top-notch academic programs - appears headed for approval. The first reading on the plan is set for Nov. 9.
But Palm Harbor IB and Lakeview parents aren't likely to be happy. Both groups have vocally protested the proposed changes in recent weeks.
About a dozen Palm Harbor IB parents attended the workshop. Some said after the meeting that they want the board to postpone a decision on the IB program until it can be determined how other proposed changes - such as a new IB at Largo High - may ease the school's overcrowding problem.
"What we're saying is leave it alone for a year," Palm Harbor IB parent Liz Valletti told The Gradebook. "Let it settle out."
But board chair Janet Clark said the issue can't wait. Some high school students who live near Palm Harbor have been zoned into Tarpon Springs High because of the capacity problems. "We have to do something for those kids," she said. "We're trying to look at the big picture."