Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough parents oppose school switch

TAMPA — Their qualms are many, their complaints harsh and frequent.

Many parents living in suburban Bay Crest are dead set against a proposal by Hillsborough school officials to send their children to Webb Middle School, a predominately Hispanic school in Town 'N Country.

At least 40 parents have sent caustic e-mails to school officials. Eleven families representing 19 Bay Crest children have signed a petition of protest.

"Call it stubborn, call it selfish, or just call it overprotective parenting, but the majority of Bay Crest residents are not going to send their kids to Webb Middle School," Bay Crest Elementary School PTA president Stephanie May wrote in an e-mail to Steve Ayers, Hillsborough's director of pupil administrative services.

The issue has exploded because of the school district's need to move students out of crowded schools to meet the state's class size mandates. As part of a larger reshuffling that includes the opening of Sgt. Smith Middle School in Citrus Park, 145 students will be rezoned from consistently A-rated Farnell Middle School to C-rated Webb.

At a recent workshop, most of the School Board defended Webb.

"Webb gets a bad rap," said board member Jack Lamb, who said its feeder schools are rated A and B and have residential areas that are comparable to Bay Crest.

Webb principal Brent McBrien said he faced the same biases and misconceptions at nearby Leto High School, where he was an assistant principal for seven years. He said Bay Crest parents should give Webb a chance.

Board member Susan Valdes plans to meet with Bay Crest Elementary parents tonight. She has promised to vote against the rezoning, but still hopes parents "will become enthusiastic in embracing Webb."

It could be a hard sell.

Bay Crest parents say Webb is educationally subpar and a hotbed of gang activity in a dangerous neighborhood. Parents wrote that they've picked up spent bullet casings behind Webb and have seen drug deals at Leto.

Cpl. Kyle Robinson of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office gang enforcement section says gang issues at Webb are no worse than at any other school.

"Right now there are no active complaints from any of the faculty, students or parents," Robinson said.

Still, the area surrounding Webb has had problems.

In February 2006, an argument at a weekend carnival at Webb — technically not a school function — led to the gang-linked murder of two former Leto students.

Less than a half-mile away from Webb is Royal Oaks Apartments, which came under Sheriff's Office scrutiny in 2002 for gang activity when it was known as Cimarron Apartments. The complex came under new management in 2005, with promises of improvement. But parent Michelle Trinidad said, "I hear stories all the time about kids from those apartments beating each other up at school."

Last school year, Webb reported nine fights, according to school district numbers. That compares to Farnell's report of four fights.

Bay Crest parents say they will send their children to private, charter or magnet schools, or move, to avoid Webb. Some of the e-mails sound racially biased, Valdes said. "But I hope they're not geared that way."

Most of the children who go to Webb are minorities and economically disadvantaged. Of the school's more than 700 students, nearly two-thirds receive free or reduced-priced lunch. Sixty percent are Hispanic and 11 percent are black. White students make up 20 percent of the enrollment.

By contrast, just one-third of Farnell's 1,100 students receive lunch subsidies.

While Webb is at 76 percent capacity, Farnell is at 117 percent. The proposed reshuffling would drop Farnell to 82 percent and bring Webb to 89 percent capacity.

Sixth- and seventh-graders currently at Farnell will have the option of staying at the school, but the school district will not provide transportation, Ayers said.

Amber Mobley can be reached at or (813) 269-5311.

Hillsborough parents oppose school switch 03/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 11:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.