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At Bogie, fundamental 'school within a school' idea finds favor

If the Boca Ciega High School community seems to be experiencing whiplash, it's understandable.

In the past several months, the D-school has:

• Seen a new principal named and then taken away.

• Had teachers vote to become a fundamental school — only to learn the superintendent won't support it.

• Gotten an interim principal.

And now, the latest suggestion: establish a fundamental "school within a school" at the Gulfport campus. Superintendent Julie Janssen on Tuesday proposed setting aside 600 seats at Bogie — being added by construction — for fundamental students, beginning the next school year with about 100 to 150 ninth-graders.

It's a compromise between those who want a fundamental high school in south Pinellas County and those who believe low-achieving students would be pushed out to nearby high schools that are already struggling.

And if every new fundamental seat at Bogie is filled and a waiting list persists, that sends a message, said deputy superintendent Jim Madden.

"That's the beauty of starting a school within a school," he said.

Fundamental schools require that parents and students agree to heavy parental involvement and strict discipline, or face removal. Currently there is only one fundamental high school in the district, Osceola High School in Seminole.

Initially, supporters and detractors of creating a south Pinellas fundamental high school both like the "school within a school" concept. But enough questions linger that the answers could redraw the lines that divide them.

"Conceptual stuff is good," said Watson Haynes, co-chair of a group charged with ensuring the district is providing black students an equitable education, "But we have to have it in operation."

Haynes said he believes the plan promises not to result in the large-scale displacement of current Boca Ciega students. But he still worries that the district would eventually expand the program to include more and more of the school.

That's exactly what fundamental parents hope will happen.

"A school within a school wouldn't be my ideal model," said advocate Jean Willingham. "But I think it's a workable model — as long as they continue to look at the demand."

Boca Ciega history and economics teacher William White agreed that school officials have to weigh supply and demand.

"I guess we're cautiously optimistic," he said. "We enthusiastically want this to happen."

Teachers cheered and clapped last week when interim principal Carol Moore shared the "school within a school" news. Eighty-seven percent voted last spring to turn fundamental.

"We're ready for a change," said psychology teacher Kathy Drouin. "We feel we could have more parent support, which is so vital, and more student accountability. Our jobs are on the line."

Staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or rcatalanello@sptimes.com.

At Bogie, fundamental 'school within a school' idea finds favor 09/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 25, 2010 4:31am]
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