Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

Charter school set to expand

SPRING HILL — All of the elements are starting to fall into place for Gulf Coast Middle School, a replication of the first charter school in Hernando County.

There is one thing missing with this school, though: a long battle over the right to exist.

Call it a perk of being a copycat.

The middle school, founded by the same people who blazed the charter school trail with Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology in 2003, is set to open next fall. This time around, it has been a noticeably smoother process.

School officials already have secured a 15-year charter. They have a campus. Their brand-new, steel-frame building is set to be finished well before the first day of school. They have more money. Their curriculum is identical to the other school's and established. And their reputation is solid.

Now they've added two other key components.

Gulf Coast officials recently persuaded longtime Hernando educator David Schoelles to come out of retirement and lead the new middle school. They also received a competitive $350,000 start-up grant that will allow them to buy state-of-the-art technology, instructional materials and new furniture, and that will help cover insurance and accounting costs.

Schoelles worked in the Hernando school district for 30 years as a teacher, principal and administrator. He taught social studies and history at the middle school and high school levels before becoming an assistant principal at Powell Middle School for seven years. He took charge of the adult education center for two year before being named the principal at Fox Chapel Middle School when it opened in 1997. Afterward, he served as a curriculum supervisor with the district and, among other things, was in charge of working with charter schools.

"For me, it's an incredibly exciting opportunity," Schoelles said. "(Gulf Coast Academy) is a charter school the way charter schools are supposed to be.

"It's an opportunity I just can't pass up. It's a great chance to start up a school that's really going to carry on a great tradition."

He said he's always been impressed with the school's commitment to its students' education and with its vision. He lauded Gulf Coast's field activities program, which has always been a central feature of the school.

The 55-year-old Schoelles said this will be a different type of challenge for him.

The goal is not to create a unique school; it's to copy an already high-achieving one and make it just as successful.

The new school will open with just 88 sixth- and seventh-graders. The next year, it will add eighth grade and reach its 120-student capacity.

Students will apply for Gulf Coast Middle, which will be at 2139 Deborah Drive, on the old Pasco-Hernando Community College Spring Hill campus, using the same website and online application they do for Gulf Coast Academy. The application window opens Jan. 1 and closes Jan. 25.

Students and their parents or guardians who submit applications on time are required to visit the school in February. Those applications will then be picked from a lottery.

The new school was largely made possible because of a $400,000 bequest from David Sturgill, a Spring Hill building contractor and real estate agency owner who died in 2009. The science center at the school will be named in his honor.

The new building and land will cost in the neighborhood of $650,000, said Joe Gatti, Gulf Coast Academy's curriculum and instruction director.

Nevin Siefert II, Gulf Coast Academy's director of administration, said the expansion has been a long time coming and culminates a long-standing vision.

"We're ecstatic," he said. "Every year, we've had to hold a lottery in which we've turned away children who are really interested in the sciences and technology. It's heartbreaking."

With the new school, they've doubled their capacity.

For the 2012-13 school year, Gulf Coast Academy accepted 49 of the 120 students who applied, meaning the school denied nearly twice as many students as it accepted.

"We're hoping to accept 90 percent of the people that apply," said Gatti.

He said there already is great interest for next year.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Tweet him @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18