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Hernando board considers allowing problem students to stay in schools outside zone

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County students enrolled in a school outside of their zoned school have long faced the prospect of being sent back to their home school during the school year for bad grades, poor attendance, behavioral issues or chronic tardiness.

That could change.

Hernando School Board members on Tuesday signaled a desire to see problem students stick out the year at the choice or magnet school instead of being told to return to the home school.

For board member Cynthia Moore, it was a matter of equity — financial and otherwise.

"If they're causing problems at the school they're in and you're moving them back to their home school because of the problems, then you're moving the problems from one place to another," she said. "It's not fair moving a child who is having a problem with discipline or tardies or attendance back to their home school."

She also said that it was not financially fair; the receiving home school would not get allocated any money for that student.

Board member John Sweeney agreed, saying whatever school accepts the student should be considered this student's school "for better, for worse, for good, bad, you know, throughout at least that entire school year … I think that's the way it should be."

The policy change came up at a Tuesday afternoon workshop discussion of annual changes to the district's controlled-choice program, which gives parents the opportunity to select a school other than their child's zoned school.

The proposal wasn't exactly expected. It wasn't originally among the changes being considered for the 2014-15 plan.

"The principals will be shocked," said student services director Mary-Grace Surrena, who presented the item. "They like that leverage to be able to hold over parents."

She also said allowing principals to return students to home zoned schools has been a policy in the district for as long as she could remember.

But she did see some advantages to a change.

She said it will force the schools to work harder to turn around those out-of-zone students.

"We'll have to beef up our game a little bit to make sure supports and interventions are in place," she said. "(Students are) not going to be going anywhere — at least until the end of the school year."

The School Board also gave tentative approval to expand this policy to the district's three magnet schools. Under the current policy, magnet schools haven't been able to send a student back to his or her zoned schools for attendance problems, tardiness, behavioral issues or poor grades.

Michael Maine, principal of Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, said he believed the policy change would give the magnets added accountability.

"Instead of being able to remove them immediately, they would ride out the rest of the year," he said. "So that's okay."

The board, which was without Board member Dianne Bonfield, signaled their tentative approval for both the 2014-15 controlled-choice plan and the 2014-15 magnet program procedures.

But it was not without a long discussion

Typically a contentious issue, board members have much to say about the plans and possible revisions.

Board members nixed recommendations to do away with mandatory orientations at Chocachatti Elementary and Challenger, two of the district's magnet schools. They also took efforts to bolster the appeals process for those who have had their controlled school choice applications denied.

Sweeney praised the plans and the district's efforts, but took issue with the district's inability to duplicate the success at the district's magnet schools, a perennial concern of his.

"We need to expand it," he said.

Contact Danny Valentine at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando board considers allowing problem students to stay in schools outside zone 10/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 7:28pm]
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