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Hernando County School Board wants investigation of Nature Coast Tech's ineligible students

BROOKSVILLE — The controversy over the ineligible Nature Coast Technical High School students isn't over yet.

School Board chairwoman Dianne Bonfield on Tuesday asked superintendent Wayne Alexander to launch an investigation into how the students who live beyond Hernando County's borders were admitted to the magnet school despite a policy limiting admission to county residents.

"I would like to see where the accountability lies," Bonfield said during the board's regular meeting. "If we don't know the who, what, when, where and why, we can't be assured it isn't going to happen again."

Board member Sandra Nicholson agreed, adding that any punitive action against district staffers would be up to Alexander.

"To find out where the breakdown occurred may be beneficial to everyone," Nicholson said. "I don't want to turn a blind eye to it."

Bonfield didn't have the full consensus of the board, but she didn't need one to request the investigation, School Board attorney Paul Carland said.

Board members Pat Fagan and James Yant said the district should move forward.

"I don't support spending the time on that specific issue when we made it clear what we expect," Fagan said. "Going back in the past doesn't help at all."

"My feeling is, move on and not do anything punitive," Yant said.

Alexander asked Bonfield to clarify her request.

"You're not asking me to fire anyone in error, because everyone in this room is in error to some point," Alexander said.

Bonfield didn't answer that question, saying, "We need to find out why it happened in the first place, and that's going to go back a number of years."

The district learned earlier this year that 19 out-of-county students were attending Nature Coast. Parents of students said the policy wasn't made clear to them.

School services director Sonya Jackson told the board at the time that the addresses should have been checked at the school level. Nature Coast principal Margaret "Tizzy" Schoelles has accepted responsibility for a few of the ineligible students, saying she wasn't aware that some Spring Hill addresses extend south into Pasco County.

The students who weren't currently seniors were told they wouldn't be allowed to stay. Ten students appealed, and the board voted June 2 to allow three students who will be seniors next year to return to the school.

School Board attorney Paul Carland told the board Tuesday night that an attorney representing two of the denied students has contacted him and that the district should probably expect some legal action.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

Hernando County School Board wants investigation of Nature Coast Tech's ineligible students 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:03pm]
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