The nation's eighth-largest district welcomes more than 190,000 students back to school this month, with the usual challenges along with the added excitement of the Republican National Convention. • The convention means an early start date for Rampello K-8 Downtown Partnership School, which opens its doors on Aug. 14 and then closes the week of Aug. 27. • The rest of the district returns to school on Aug. 21, with enhanced security in some areas during the convention.
In addition to getting kids acclimated to school while Tampa takes the national stage, the district will embark on its third full year of the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teachers, a seven-year experiment in education reform that seeks to reward teachers based on their performance instead of seniority.
Politics matter as four School Board incumbents face challengers in the Aug. 14 primary. Three will be decided on that date, while Carol Kurdell's bid for re-election to an at-large seat could continue to a runoff in November. • The results could change the balance of power on the board, which had to contend with difficult issues this year, including a backlash against the guest appearance of a Muslim civil rights advocate, and an athletic eligibility scandal at Armwood High School.
No action is planned on the guest speakers policy. The district's athletics department, meanwhile, hopes to resolve the eligibility issue with a new policy that would take effect in the spring.