Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Frugality, creativity help insulate Pasco County students from spending cuts

WESLEY CHAPEL — Melissa Bidgood knew she wanted to take her third-grade class to Lowry Park Zoo as part of her animal habitat science theme.

With two field trips already under their belt, though, the Sand Pine Elementary School teacher also knew that getting the school or parents to cough up the $800 cost was unlikely, especially in today's budget cutting climate. Rather than bag the idea, though, Bidgood sought a third avenue for the funds — a grant from Target's field trip fund.

She won the award, and her students will take their trip on March 24. Now Bidgood is sold on looking for outside assistance to accomplish things that the public schools increasingly cannot afford.

"It was my first grant," said Bidgood, a fifth-year teacher. "I was excited."

Outside sources help many Pasco schools make ends meet as they try not to hurt instruction while millions in spending are slashed.

Booster clubs and parent groups have helped fill the gaps in Wiregrass Ranch High School's budget. Community organizations and local businesses have donated supplies to Schwettman Educational Center.

"Just the other day New Image Dermatology donated 10 flat-screen monitors," Schwettman principal Mimi Foster said. "People want to help."

At the same time, schools aim to hold the line anywhere possible.

Wiregrass Ranch custodians won't replace trash bags until they're completely full, for instance. Teachers assign work on blogs rather than hand out papers.

Schwettman cut its water and electric bills by 50 percent with an aggressive effort to flip light switches and tighten faucets. Calusa Elementary School limited the number of copies each teacher can make monthly. Bayonet Point Middle School audits its supplies before allowing the purchase of anything new.

"We're doing the normal cost-saving things you do," Bayonet Point principal Mike Asbell said. "We're being frugal and cautious."

The goal all along has been to keep the pain from classrooms and students. In many ways, principals agreed, the effort has succeeded.

But that's not to say the budget woes have not taken a toll.

Sunlake High, for example, had to disrupt hundreds of students' schedules mid-year after a reading teacher left the school and the district would not fill the position because of its hiring freeze. The school also has done without needed calculators in some math classes.

"I think that we're (also) seeing it in things like morale and attitude in some places," Sunlake principal Angie Stone said.

Some teachers struggle with their lack of raises, she noted. Many students have dealt with home foreclosures, new jobs to help their parents pay bills and more.

"A lot of that is eating away at school as a happy place where kids can go to escape all this," Stone said.

Things don't appear to be getting better.

Florida lawmakers now are talking about the state budget falling another $300 million short this fiscal year, and then $5 billion more next fiscal year. That news has education leaders on edge.

"Every time they talk about things I hold my breath and think, 'What are they going to cut?' " said Northwest Elementary principal Tracy Graziaplene.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at


How is your school making ends meet?

Budget cuts have forced schools to reduce spending. Leaders say they're trying to keep the cuts away from the classroom. Is it working? What's happening at your school? Send an e-mail to with the details of what you've seen and how it affects students, teachers and others in the school.

Frugality, creativity help insulate Pasco County students from spending cuts 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  2. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with critical series at Yankees up first

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  4. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?


    The following is from the Miami Herald: