ST. PETERSBURG — The first night, they heard from International Baccalaureate parents. The second, the talk was mostly fundamental.
Pinellas County School Board members made the second stop on a two-night listening tour Wednesday in an effort to get input on a sweeping countywide plan to give more students access to rigorous academic programs.
Parents from Lakeview Fundamental Elementary showed up in force to protest a proposal to move their program into roomier Gulfport Elementary.
Superintendent Julie Janssen floated the idea as one way to increase the number of fundamental seats available to students to meet what appears to be a growing demand among parents for the back-to-basics curriculum.
But parents at A-rated Lakeview worry that tampering with their school could diminish the success of the program.
Under Janssen's plan, students at D-rated Gulfport would have the opportunity to be grandfathered into the program if their parents agreed to the contract required of fundamental families — one that guarantees high parental involvement and an adherence to strict discipline or else face removal.
"Lakeview is our community, our home," said parent Kristie Dowling, after asking all the Lakeview parents to stand. "Many of us feel you are punishing our students for succeeding."
Though Janssen's plan includes other proposals such as a new fundamental school within a school at Boca Ciega High as well as uniforms for students in elementary and middle schools, few speakers addressed those issues.
Those who didn't speak on behalf of Lakeview spoke about everything from the achievement gap between black and white students to the shortcomings of a lottery system required for placement in magnet programs.
Minetha Morris, mother of three students at three different schools, told board members she was disheartened by the speakers who said they were worried about the impact of "those" students at another school. "These are our students," she said, emphasizing that all children are worth the district's concern.
And because a part of Janssen's plan for Lakeview includes moving Gulfport's smaller Montessori school-within-a-school to its own facility at Lakeview, there were a couple of Gulfport parents who spoke in favor of the move.
Janssen and board members were swarmed by parents as they left the 90-minute meeting.
Board member Peggy O'Shea said that despite concerns that the plan is a done deal, it's not. But the reason for the proposal is to meet a demand. "For years they've said 'we want more fundamental seats,' " she said. "This plan will increase fundamental seats."
The board is expected to vote on a final plan Dec. 7. The public is invited to speak during a first reading of the plan on Nov. 9. Janssen also is planning to meet with the staff at Lakeview on Oct. 20 and at Gulfport on Oct. 21.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8707.