Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco school district sees changes under new superintendent in 2013


January marked the beginning of an overhaul of the Pasco County School District. Just over a month into his term, superintendent Kurt Browning kicked off the year by revamping the administration to reflect his priority of a district office working to support campus learning. After reorganizing departments and shifting personnel, Browning expanded his restructuring effort.

Some ideas worked, and others floundered.

Among the first announcements was a plan to accelerate the reconstruction of Quail Hollow and Shady Hills elementary schools. That meant the closure of both for a few years, with the children attending elsewhere.

Some parents in the Shady Hills area protested loudly, especially after learning their kids would go to Crews Lake Middle School, which would be reconfigured as a K-8 building. They fretted about having their youngsters on buses and in hallways with teenagers.

The fears evaporated, though, after the families saw the school in action in the fall.

Browning didn't have as much luck with his proposal to shutter the Moore-Mickens Education Center in Dade City. Students attending the adult and alternative programs there criticized the idea as harmful to the low-income community that depends upon the campus.

The superintendent withdrew this recommendation as residents complained to the School Board.

Browning faced even stronger resistance to a plan to eliminate school media specialists and literacy coaches as part of a budget-saving measure tied to a new instructional model. Media specialists and their supporters pressured the board to reject the change, which lacked specifics at the time.

Board members sought assurances that schools would continue to staff libraries, ultimately approving the concept. Some media specialists, literacy coaches and technology specialists (who were added to the strategy late) returned to the classroom, while some moved into newly created district jobs and others left the district.

Schools still were feeling their way through the new set-up as the year wound to a close.

Amid these high-profile disputes, Browning aimed to keep efforts focused on improving morale, which he contended in turn would result in better academic outcomes.

He worked to settle a simmering teacher grievance over working conditions, promising more time for planning and less for testing. Some complaints remain, but are more muted.

He and the board pressed to give all employees raises, a goal that was aided by the state Legislature's budget. He shifted several school principals, as well.

Among them was the removal of Connerton Elementary School's controversial principal, who had generated many complaints during her tenure.

Browning dismissed Anna Falcone amid accusations that she tried to access confidential climate survey responses despite warnings not to do so.

Other changes also came throughout the year.

After complaining the district did not offer students ample education options, Browning convened a choice advisory committee and gave the green light to several new programs, including the Cambridge diploma model at Pasco middle and high schools, an aeronautics academy at Sunlake High and a STEM magnet for a planned new Sanders Elementary.

The Sanders project is part of the district's accelerated building plan, sped up by a resurgence in enrollment growth after years of static numbers. Other projects put into a bond, sold at the end of the year, include a new elementary school in Wesley Chapel.

Browning additionally captured wide attention with his strong stands on hot issues.

He ordered high school football coaches to stop the longtime practice of leading players in prayer at games and practices, saying district employees should not promulgate religion. He agreed to propose changes to honor roll criteria after a middle school mom complained that her son didn't deserve the honor after earning a D in a class.

After planning to violate the state class size amendment, he took advantage of a new state loophole to evade the penalties by designating all campuses as "schools of choice" — a move that generated calls from several other interested districts.

And he was tapped to lead a committee of superintendents fighting new state dual enrollment funding laws, after challenging Pasco-Hernando Community College over fees he found unacceptable. (The district abandoned that battle.)

Several key issues remain as the district embarks on 2014.

It is still working to implement the Common Core State Standards, training educators and preparing students even as leaders pressure the state to delay its transition to a new accountability model.

Officials are trying to revise the district's teacher evaluations, to make them more useful for growth in performance and less punitive. They're devising local tests, as well, so that each teacher can be rated based on their own students' work, as lawmakers recently required.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at

Pasco school district sees changes under new superintendent in 2013 12/31/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 5:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Wrestling to return to old Tampa armory — but just for one night

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.

    For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.
Now named the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, the armory regularly featured stars such as Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco. On September 26, it will host a one-time only reunion night. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times file photo (2016)]
  2. Wanted: New businesses on Safety Harbor's Main Street

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A green grocery store, a hardware store, restaurants, boutiques and multi-use buildings are all wanted downtown, according to discussion at a community redevelopment workshop held last week. And to bring them to the Main Street district, city commissioners, led by Mayor Joe Ayoub, gave City Manager …

    Whistle Stop Bar & Grill is one of the main stops on Main Street in Safety Harbor. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  3. John Morgan intends to pressure every Florida politician to fund wage initiative


    John Morgan, the publicity-loving personal injury lawyer/entrepreneur who spearheaded the successful medical marijuana initiative, soon plans to start collecting signatures for a 2020 ballot initiative raising Florida minimum wage. He plans to "spend millions of my own money" on the effort, but he also intends to …

  4. Westbound traffic on Courtney Campbell blocked after crash


    Westbound traffic on the Courtney Campbell Causeway is being diverted following a crash early Thursday morning.

  5. Q&A: A business leader and historian jointly delve into Tampa's waterfront


    TAMPA — As a native of Tampa, Arthur Savage has always had a passion for his hometown's history. And as a third-generation owner and operator of A.R. Savage & Son, a Tampa-based shipping agency, his affinity for his hometown also extends to its local waterways.

    Arthur Savage (left) and Rodney Kite-Powell, co-authors of "Tampa Bay's Waterfront: Its History and Development," stand for a portrait with the bust of James McKay Sr. in downtown Tampa on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. McKay, who passed away in 1876, was a prominent businessman, among other things, in the Tampa area. He was Arthur Savage's great great grandfather. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]