Sunday, February 18, 2018
Education

Charter middle school in Hernando opens new year in its own building

SPRING HILL

Eighth-grader Dustin Sanderson trudged up the sidewalk to Gulf Coast Middle School on Monday morning, still rubbing sleep from his eyes and with all the excitement one might expect from a 13-year-old boy on the first day of school.

"Wake up, boy, it's school time," principal David Schoelles shouted as he stood in the bright morning sun, beads of sweat already forming on his forehead. "It could be worse."

The boy cracked a smile.

Schoelles, the teachers and students all had a big reason to be excited for the start of the 2014-15 school year: The charter school is now operating out of its own building.

Last school year, the charter's first, the students and staff were forced to work part of the year out of portable buildings at Fox Chapel Middle School because construction was not finished on the school's permanent building on Deborah Drive.

"It's so much more fun to be able to start out at our own place," Schoelles said.

Schoelles played the part of cheerleader on Monday, welcoming students as they were dropped off by parents and buses. He greeted most of the kids — and a fair number of parents — by first name, asking them about certain issues or questions.

"Good morning, Hailey," he said to a girl stepping out of a vehicle.

"Take care of my baby," her mother shouted as she pulled away.

Even more than students, parents seemed excited to be sending their children to the charter school, a replication of the high-achieving Gulf Coast Academy in Spring Hill. With three charters at nearly full capacity this year, Hernando has more students in charter schools than ever before. Charters operate with public money but with less oversight than regular public schools.

Melissa Sanderson said she wanted her son to go to the school because of the strong academic pedigree and the wide range of field trips offered.

"I felt like it was going to give him more of a chance to broaden his education," she said. "Things that I could never do for him he's going to get to do here."

Donna Bohn, mother of 12-year-old Nicholas Bohn, said that her son's first year at the charter school went well and that Schoelles and his staff made her feel at ease.

"Every parent shares the same fear when their child goes into middle school; we're all afraid of what they're going to see," she said. "There was nothing to worry about. Mr. Schoelles … is completely involved in every aspect of this school. (He) knew my son's name before the first day of school last year. I'm not alone. He's just that way."

Bohn said the small size of the school, roughly 120 students, appealed to her. She said teachers are able to pinpoint areas of weakness and help students master them.

"If the child is having a problem, the teacher is able to take the time and hear what the issue is," she said.

Lisa Abdul-Rahim has a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader at the school, having decided to send her oldest, Kadeja, 13, last year when she wasn't pleased with the middle school her daughter was attending.

"It's better than I thought it was going to be," Kadeja said. "I thought I was just going to be with snobby people. It wasn't like (that)."

Abdul-Rahim said she liked how much Gulf Coast expects from its students and how they incorporate life lessons into the classroom.

"You don't get that in regular middle school," she said.

Jason Millan, who was dropping off his seventh-grader, Aryana, said he enjoys the small class size, the one-on-one learning and the after-school activities. He said he's seen an improvement in his daughter's grades.

"They're on top of everything," Millan said. "They have a great relationship with all of the parents. It's more like a big family than it is a school."

Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18
17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

PARKLAND — An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting ...
Published: 02/14/18
Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

TAMPA — Claudette Wilson and Annella Fender are sisters from Jamaica who did everything together.They both taught at Dowdell Middle School — one English, the other reading. They played tennis on Saturdays. After their match, they would work on their ...
Published: 02/14/18
No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

TAMPA — The University of South Florida System’s long-serving leader will again stand to make about $925,000 in pay and deferred compensation under her proposed contract renewal.If approved, President Judy Genshaft’s contract will provide for about $...
Published: 02/14/18

Pasco School Board: Principals should alert families of potentially controversial books

Recently adopted law that gives parents and other residents more opportunities to review and challenge school instructional materials has sparked the Pasco County School Board to take a closer look at how it deals with such situations.The board last ...
Published: 02/14/18