TAMPA — In a dismal economy, the excesses of the homecoming dance may become a lesson in Real Life Finance 101.
That's the goal of several Hillsborough School Board members.
The time has come to exercise moral leadership, they said Tuesday. Students must understand their parents' pain over the costs of the tickets, dresses, dinners, limos, corsages and pictures.
"We have set the bar so high on what we call a good time," board member April Griffin said. "It's time to rein them back. It's called life."
She asked if the district could negotiate more favorable rates by having schools hold their dances at a common location. But high school principals told school officials that they prefer to make those decisions independently.
So the board wants to take the matter to student leaders. They proposed asking a countywide council of student government officers to think of ways to limit the expenses of homecoming and prom.
Those costs range widely among schools. Brandon High, for example, holds its homecoming dance on campus and charges $10 for admission, board chairwoman Jennifer Faliero said.
At her daughter's school, Durant High, she said, the tickets cost $40. But that's just the start. Faliero budgeted $100 just for the dress. She estimated saving more than $200 by doing her daughter's hair, makeup and nails herself — and loaning her a pair of dressy shoes.
Faliero said parents are ready for someone to end the madness.
"How come we don't have the dances the same night as the football games?" Faliero asked.
"Because you can't get your hair done," replied board member Candy Olson.
"Again, it goes back to life and reality and budgets," Faliero said.
In other business, the School Board asked superintendent MaryEllen Elia to look into parent complaints about the principal of Alafia Elementary. Six parents claimed that principal Ellyn Smith has created an unsafe and hostile environment for teachers and families at the A-rated school in Valrico.
A dozen Alafia parents attended the meeting in an unusual display of discontent for a school leader. They have been talking to school officials and considered the superintendent's involvement a promising step.
The School Board also named Gloria Waite principal of Dale Mabry Elementary in South Tampa. She is currently an assistant principal at Town & Country Elementary.
Lynn Roberts is the new principal at USF/Patel Partnership Elementary School. She comes from the principal's post at Lomax Elementary.
Turner Elementary teacher Wildalynn Harris was suspended without pay pending an investigation into charges of possession of marijuana. She was arrested last month after police say they found her inside an apartment described as a grow house.
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.