Early release Wednesday still unpopular, survey says

Early release Wednesday continues to be unpopular with parents and community members, according to the latest survey results by the Pinellas Education Foundation and the Pinellas County Council of PTAs.

School employees, however, tend to support it.

Of 1,607 people surveyed, 56 percent were opposed to schools closing an hour early on Wednesdays. The practice, which was agreed to by the school district and the teachers union, gives teachers more planning time. But many parents, especially those with younger children, complain that it makes it tough to arrange child care.

The results were reversed when school employees were surveyed, with about 55 percent in favor of early release.

Other survey results include:

•65 percent want to decrease money spent outside the classroom in order to increase teacher salaries.

•79 percent think parents should pay for transportation to schools outside their zoned areas.

•63 percent think the school district should do more to reward high-performing teachers.

•61 percent think the district should do more to remove underperforming teachers.

The survey, done in July, has been a source of consternation for some Pinellas County School Board members, who argued that some questions were misleading or didn't provide enough information.

Board member Linda Lerner has been the most vocal. In an email to the PTA and foundation, Lerner objected to how the question about early release was phrased. The question said the school district didn't ask for parents' input before approving early release in 2009, and then asked, "At this time, what do you want the School Board to do?"

Lerner said early release Wednesday appeared on almost two dozen board agendas starting in May of that year, "which means the public has had at least that many opportunities to provide input on the subject."

She said, too, that the School Board can't change the policy now without the agreement of the teachers union.

In an email response, Mary Bartholf, president of the Pinellas County Council of PTAs, said it's not surprising that the survey would upset some people. She called early release Wednesday a "hot-button issue" and said many parents feel that their opinions weren't given any weight when the decision was made.

"The fact is that many parents in Pinellas County feel disenfranchised by the School Board because their opinions do not appear to be held in as high regard as the opinions, wants, or needs of others," she wrote.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Early release Wednesday still unpopular, survey says 08/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 18, 2012 5:31am]

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