Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Education

Ridgewood High to be converted to technical school, Pasco board decides

LAND O’LAKES — Say goodbye to Ridgewood High School as you know it.

Next fall, the school, in New Port Richey, will focus on technical and career education. Its attendance zones will be erased, its students reassigned to nearby traditional high schools.

Even its name might become a memory.

Facing the state’s heavy hand demanding change for schools that perform poorly on annual tests, and hoping to provide different educational options to students, the Pasco County School Board agreed on Tuesday to convert Ridgewood to a magnet technical school.

Board members framed their 4-1 decision — Steve Luikart, a former Ridgewood assistant principal, opposed the move — as an exciting shift for west Pasco.

"My wish was that when we were doing this, we were doing two of them," said board member Allen Altman, who has pushed for years to add such a program in east Pasco.

Altman and others highlighted the opportunities that will open to students as they gain access to hands-on, high-skills programs that prepare them for college or a career.

"It gives students hope," board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said. "Not all students learn by reading a book."

Lurking behind the decision, though, was the knowledge that the district is moving fast to make the conversion, and some key details remain unanswered.

"When you undertake something this large, the devil is in the details," board Vice Chairwoman Alison Crumbley said. "I feel that I am a bit backed into a corner here with this decision. … And I don’t like being backed into a corner. It’s not a decision."

Crumbley called upon the district staff to take particular care in developing the entry requirements for the new technical school. She and others did not like the idea of setting a strict grade-point average for admission, for instance, arguing that that criteria alone could deter some of the students the school should be targeting.

Board member Colleen Beaudoin urged the staff to provide counseling for all Ridgewood students to ensure that they either get into the best track for them at the new school or into the right place at their next destination.

"I just have been most concerned about the current Ridgewood High School students," Beaudoin said, identifying the biggest hang-up with changing an existing school.

Luikart took that view to a different level. A longtime supporter of career education, he said he wanted to vote for a new technical high school. But he questioned the district’s ability to establish a viable program in less than a year. He further criticized the school and district leadership for not having addressed Ridgewood’s underlying problems much earlier, to avoid being rushed.

And he suggested that east Pasco deserves a technical school more than west Pasco, which already has Marchman Technical College across the street from Ridgewood.

Marchman will tie into the new technical high school’s program offerings.

"There are a lot of positive things. I think we jumped into this way too fast." Luikart said. "I think we should fix schools, not shut them down."

Speakers commenting to the board were divided along similar lines.

Parent Kenny Furrer spoke against closing Ridgewood and transforming it, contending the process is moving too swiftly and without enough transparency.

"It seems like we’re trying to push a bunch of kids out of the school that are performing poorly," Furrer told the board. "Why is it happening so fast?"

Tim McClain, representing the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the idea.

"We firmly believe if you give the students of Pasco County a choice, it will be successful," McClain said.

The district now faces a tight time frame for putting all of the specifics in place.

It intends to open applications for the new school in January, and wants to have enough details in place for parents and students to make an informed decision.

At the same time, the district has launched an accelerated school rezoning effort to assign current Ridgewood neighborhoods to other campuses. Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said the goal is to send everyone to either Fivay or Gulf high schools.

The district is scheduling a public workshop on the boundary maps for 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at Ridgewood. The board is expected to hold its public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 19 and to vote on the proposal on Jan. 16.

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

Comments
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Updated: 12 hours ago

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

News stories about campus sexual assault often get the question, "Why do schools handle these cases, anyway?"Readers often wonder how universities got tasked with handling these convoluted cases in the first place. Where, they ask, do the police come...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Finalists were announced Tuesday for Hillsborough County Teacher of the year and other honors.Winners will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 16.The finalists for teacher of the year are: Jennifer Jackson, seventh grade science, Stewart Middle; Alexa ...
Published: 12/05/17