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Little agreement on Countryside High School's direction

CLEARWATER — It's still up in the air what rigorous academic program will find a home at Countryside High School.

About 25 parents and educators discussed a number of suggestions Tuesday afternoon. And the possibilities ranged from a program like Lakewood High's Center for Advanced Technologies to some type of gifted or honors program.

Countryside's School Advisory Council met with four representatives from the Pinellas County school district.

Neither superintendent Julie Janssen nor deputy superintendent Jim Madden could make it because the School Board was still meeting when the group started sharing ideas about 4 p.m.

But the board had approved a placeholder for a rigorous attractor at Countryside. It also approved an honors option at Largo High to make way for an International Baccalaureate program there.

So, even though a number of faculty members informed Countryside principal Gary Schlereth they were in favor of an IB program at Countryside, that possibility is pretty much off the table.

Advisory council member Michael Pate expressed frustration over being asked for feedback so late in the process. He said he didn't have the background and was looking to the administration to offer some options.

A couple of others said they didn't appreciate their interests taking a back seat to those of Palm Harbor IB parents.

"We really want to listen to what it is you have to say," said Alec Liem, superintendent for Region 6, which includes Countryside.

He suggested that they come up with some ideas that would keep students at Countryside, draw them from elsewhere and not replicate something that's offered nearby.

Cindy Saginario, assistant principal for curriculum, suggested making Countryside an honors high school, creating curriculum that would provide an Advanced Placement focus as well as college credit offerings taught on campus by teachers certified for such instruction.

Carl Zimmermann, who teaches TV production at Countryside and favors a technology program like CAT, cautioned against having a vague concept.

"We need a program that's got a name, that's got sizzle," said Zimmermann, who has a background in advertising.

Janssen has said starting a CAT program may be cost-prohibitive. Startup costs at Lakewood were about $4 million. Tuesday, School Board member Linda Lerner asked Janssen to research the option further and said money shouldn't be the barrier.

Zimmermann told the advisory council that he didn't think CAT should be dismissed because of the cost, either.

"I don't buy the price tag," he said.

The advisory council and other school leaders hope to get feedback from the community and come up with some concrete suggestions for the School Board before next Tuesday's School Board workshop.

A final vote for these and other proposals is scheduled for Dec. 7.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Little agreement on Countryside High School's direction 11/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 7:54pm]

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