Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

Parents share tips on finding the school that fits

No more is picking a school a matter of public versus private. The choices are vast — charter, magnet, religious, independent, home school, virtual school and various combinations.

How can parents decide?

First, remember that all children are different and what works for one family may not work for yours, said Heather Lambie, a mother of two at the private Canterbury School of Florida.

"You know your child best," she said, "so you know what their comfort level is, academically and socially."

Her priority was finding a school with low student-teacher ratios so her children could get personal attention. She also looked at extracurricular activities, how technology was integrated into the classroom and how the staff communicated with parents.

Advanced degrees are great, said Lambie, who now works at Canterbury as its communications director. But top credentials don't matter, she said, if the faculty keeps parents out of the loop.

Terrie Dodson-Caldevilla, Hillsborough County's school choice communications manager, recommended parents research schools online to narrow down what ones to visit. They can find out the differences types of schools and get an overview of unique offerings, such as violin lessons, iPad usage or single-gender classes. They can look for schools with uniforms or without.

But parents shouldn't get too hung up on a school's grade when doing their research, Dodson-Caldevilla said. It's a snapshot of performance, not the whole story.

"I tell people all the time — a B or a C, it doesn't mean there's not good instruction," she said. "That's when I tell the parent, you need to see it firsthand."

School visits are a must, she said. You might even be able to bring your child on a tour to see what piques his interest. Middle and high school students may have a chance to shadow classmates at their prospective school.

Lambie likes asking administrators for parent contacts to talk to one-on-one. If your child is fanatical about soccer, it would help to chat with a fellow parent about their perception of the athletic program. You may also get a sense of whether you share the same values as other parents, Lambie said.

Parents of fifth-graders at SunFlower School, a private elementary school in Gulfport, have been swapping information they find about schools as their children prepare to graduate to middle school.

Maureen Corbett, whose daughter is in fifth grade, worked with another mother to compile a list of questions to ask when touring schools and factors to consider.

They looked at the school's diversity, its class sizes, the typical amount of homework and how bullying is handled. They also wanted to find out about academic approaches — if classes are lectures or interactive, how the school deals with standardized testing and whether it focuses strictly on grades or also on character.

Just asking those questions may prove insightful, no matter what the answers. Schools that are welcoming and open to tours and questions from visitors will usually continue to have good communication once children are enrolled, Corbett said.

Once your research is done, the decision, a lot of the time, comes down to what your gut says. Corbett knew when she saw SunFlower in person and its creative, relaxed and respectful atmosphere that she had found the right school for her daughter.

Lambie felt the same way about Canterbury. She liked the community feel to the school and the families seemed down to earth.

"Canterbury felt like home," she said.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18