Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition


Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.

The state Office of Early Learning has now issued recommendations to trim back the 30 ELCs, with one of the moves being to merge Citrus County’s with the Pasco-Hernando coalition.

In an email to coalition board members and supporters, executive director Jim Farrelly called the possibility "likely controversial."

"Needless to say, this is FAR from a ‘done deal.’ Many months of discussion lay ahead," he wrote.

Farrelly anticipated dramatic changes if the proposal goes through.

"We will assume responsibility for a third, large and distant County and approximately 1700 additional children," he wrote. "Our budget would increase by approximately $4.3M; staff would grow substantially; board representation would expand to include membership from Citrus County."

In the meantime, Farrelly added, business will continue as usual for Pasco and Hernando county early learning programs.

MENTORS NEEDED: Take Stock In Children, a scholarship program for children living in poverty, is looking for volunteers to work with student participants two to four times monthly.

Schools needing female mentors are Centennial Middle, Hudson Middle, Mitchell High and Zephyrhills High. Sunlake High seeks male mentors.

Mentor 101 training dates are Dec.12 (4 p.m.), Dec. 18 (10 a.m.), Jan. 17 (1 p.m.) and Jan. 22 (11 a.m.).

For more information, contact Diana Jerome at (813) 794-2134 or [email protected]

CHALLENGE AVERTED: The book was "A Thousand Splendid Suns," Khalid Hosseini’s 2007 novel about two women’s lives in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A mandated assignment for Land O’Lakes High’s pre-International Baccalaureate Inquiry Skills class, it caused some consternation for one family that threatened to file a formal challenge.

The book, they said, was filled with graphic sex, scenes of suicide and violence inappropriate for young teens. How could such material be assigned without warning parents or getting their consent?

When asked for information about the school’s committee review for challenged items, though, principal Ric Mellin said via email that it never happened. Unlike past instances that led Pasco schools to remove some books from reading lists, this one quietly faded away.

"We met with the family," Mellin explained, "and they are comfortable with the information we shared that shows the connections to the curriculum."

ACCREDITATION: Less than a semester into their first year of operation, Pasco County’s newest schools got some welcome news early in December.

Bexley Elementary and Cypress Creek Middle-High had been accredited by AdvancED SACS CASI, the agency that reviews whether schools meet performance standards and best practices.

The decision is based on final approval by the group’s accreditation commission in late January.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.