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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco parents offer alternative ideas to district's existing school boundary process

Committee members discuss possible new attendance zone for east Pasco County middle and high schools recently.

Times file photo

Committee members discuss possible new attendance zone for east Pasco County middle and high schools recently.

14

December

It's one thing to criticize the Pasco County school district's attendance boundary revision process, as many parents have done. It's another to come up with some possible replacements.

Some parents have done that, too.

Two of them are Longleaf residents who spend their livelihoods analyzing alternatives for companies and the federal government. Well before they knew their neighborhood would be considered for rezoning, Cristina Snyder and Bret Tobey began forming their own models of how they would redraw the maps.

"I viewed it as a fun math project," Tobey explained. Snyder nodded in agreement.

They relied on best practices in their profession, which looked more like the way the school district selects contracts and hires services than the way it zones the schools. All the pertinent data is available for everyone to review in their model, and each proposal is ranked based on how it meets the established goals for the question at hand.

For instance, the committee would score whether moving one subdivision to a different school zone would affect student demographics, traffic patterns and campus crowding. If one goal is more important than another, it gets a greater weight in the ranking. Every proposal under consideration would get the same treatment.

Each member would submit a score sheet that would be publicly available, so residents could understand the rationale behind each vote. It might turn out that the third-place proposal gets the recommendation because committee members disagree on the first two, but they all agree on the third one as an acceptable alternative. But at least it would be clear and quantifiable.

In the ongoing efforts, many parents have expressed dismay as they see the committees make recommendations without clear explanations. People look at different sets of data and come away with their own interpretations.

It helped little that superintendent Kurt Browning said through a spokesperson that he did not intend to alter the committee proposals, but then did so anyway, explaining that he made his comment thinking the committees would act differently.

[RELATED: Browning takes the helm in Pasco school rezoning process, and feels the heat]

"There is a lot about this that is subjective," Snyder said of the current process. "But we're not at a point where they've made a bad decision yet. They're at a point where they can stop and see if there's anything else needing to be done."

Tina Dosal, who lives in the Country Walk neighborhood of Wesley Chapel, also spends her day job helping executives make data-based decisions. She said she had put her faith in the district process, but quickly came to doubt it.

One of her key concerns was the involvement of residents who had a stake in the outcome.

"They should bring a third-party group in to look at the data and present a proposal," Dosal suggested, echoing another recommendation made by others throughout the county.

Dosal also noted that when the district provided data, it included errors that led the committee to make a decision that it later reversed, citing the corrected numbers as a factor.

"The politics is what upsets me the most," she said. "Everybody has got a story, but at the end of the day, the data has got to support the decision being made."

Browning has said he plans to revisit the process after the current rezonings are completed.

[DOCUMENTS: See the proposals headed to the School Board on Dec. 20]

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:56am]

    

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