Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Education

Policy allows Hernando magnet schools to boot troubled students

BROOKSVILLE — Beginning next school year, Hernando County's magnet schools will be able to send students with attendance problems, excessive tardiness, behavior issues or poor grades back to their zoned schools.

By a 4-1 vote, School Board members approved the change Tuesday night as part of the district's 2014-15 magnet program procedures handbook.

"It's not that the magnet schools are any greater," said School Board member Matt Foreman. "It's that at any time you're attending any school other than your zoned school, it's a privilege. If you don't live up to your end of the bargain, the privilege should no longer be extended."

A student at a magnet school would return to his or her zoned school for the following school year.

Aside from magnets, students attending a school outside their zone — the International Baccalaureate program at Springstead High, a career academy or another thematic program, for example — have long faced the prospect of being sent back to their home school during the year should any issues crop up.

Assistant superintendent of teaching and learning Ken Pritz said the policy, which the board is expected to align with the new magnet policy, has given principals leverage over students who are not motivated.

The magnet penalties will be enforced only after the school has made extensive efforts to correct any issues, the district says. School officials will meet with parents and keep them informed.

School Board member Dianne Bonfield cast the lone vote against the policy change. She felt that students should stay at a magnet or choice school regardless of any behavioral, attendance or academic issues.

"Once an enrollment is set, those are the students that are there to be educated at that site," she said. "I think we as a board need to, beyond this, think about the message we're sending to our zoned schools."

Bonfield said she has always had an issue with the district's policy regarding choice schools. Now, she said, is the time to address it.

Also on Tuesday, the School Board:

• Voted unanimously to terminate the employment of embattled Powell Middle School teacher Jesse Mockler.

Mockler, a social studies teacher, had been on unpaid suspension as he appealed superintendent Lori Romano's decision to fire him after the district found he falsified an application to renew his teaching certificate and failed to promptly report a July conviction for driving under the influence. He dropped the appeal Nov. 7.

• Elected a chairman and vice chairwoman during the board's yearly organizational meeting. Gus Guadagnino will serve as board chairman; Bonfield will serve as vice chairwoman.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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