More accountability is the goal of proposed magnet school changes in Hernando

Greater accountability is the goal of changes proposed at Hernando magnet schools, including Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2011)

Greater accountability is the goal of changes proposed at Hernando magnet schools, including Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has long made it clear that attending one of its three magnet schools is a privilege for students.

Now the district is considering putting some muscle behind that.

Students who fail to maintain passing grades, good attendance, appropriate behavior or are chronically tardy could be removed from the magnets and sent back to their home schools, according to recommended changes to the district's magnet program procedures.

"It gives us a little bit more accountability, said Michael Maine, principal at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics. "There's that accountability piece on those students and those parents."

The changes, put forward by superintendent Lori Romano for the 2014-15 lottery year, are slated for discussion during a School Board workshop Tuesday afternoon. The board will then need to vote on the procedures at a later meeting.

The policy really isn't new to the district.

Other students attending a school outside their zone — the International Baccalaureate program at Springstead High, a career academy or another thematic program, for example — already abide by the policy.

"We need to be more in alignment," Maine said.

Maine said penalties would be enforced only after the school had made extensive efforts to correct any issues. He said school officials would meet with parents and let them know exactly what was happening.

"The parents would be involved way ahead of the game so there would be no surprises," he said.

Under the current system, a student enrolled in a magnet program is at the school for the entire year, barring expulsion. Low grades, poor attendance and minor disciplinary issues do not result in a student's removal, said Ken Pritz, Hernando's assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

The policy change "gives (principals) some leverage over those kids who are not motivated," he said.

There are a number of other recommendations being proposed for the district's magnet program procedures handbook.

Not included in them: any change to the percentage of students accepted by lottery and portfolio, typically a contentious issue.

The superintendent is recommending that Chocachatti Elementary School and Challenger stay at 70 percent lottery admissions and 30 percent portfolio. For students not living in the school's zone, admission at Nature Coast Technical High School would remain 100 percent by lottery.

Another significant change: Parents or guardians of applicants at Chocachatti and Challenger no longer would be required to attend an orientation meeting the year the application is made. The new procedure states that portfolio applicants are "strongly encouraged to attend an orientation meeting."

Maine said the change was made, in part, to make it easier for some students and their parents to apply to the schools.

"You're really putting a lot of pressure on families that may be working two or three jobs," he said.

Parents or guardians of Nature Coast students applying to the magnet program would be required to attend an orientation meeting. Pritz said that was left in place because the school has a number of different programs that students must select and enroll in.

Applicants to Challenger and Chocachatti would also be required to complete an online application, instead of a paper one. Nature Coast applicants would still complete a print version of the application, which would be provided at the orientation meeting in November.

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

More accountability is the goal of proposed magnet school changes in Hernando 10/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 6:29pm]

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