Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Pasco students to have class on Veterans Day in 2014

LAND O'LAKES — For the first time in years, Pasco County public school students will have classes on Veterans Day in 2014.

The change is part of a trade-off that will allow the district to have a full week off for Thanksgiving, as it did in 2012 for what was supposed to be a one-time event.

It's a way to meet requests of many parents and staff who liked the weeklong holiday. It also guarantees that children will get something meaningful out of Veterans Day, superintendent Kurt Browning said.

"Right now, when we close this district for Veterans Day, I could probably count the number of students that attend activities for veterans on one hand," Browning told the School Board, as he asked for their approval of his proposed 2014-15 calendar. "These students have not a clue, in large part, what veterans are or the sacrifices they have made."

He pledged to have schools incorporate lessons about the military service into their Veterans Day curriculum.

The county Veterans Services division will provide ideas for programs, activities and other learning opportunities, director Brian Anderson said.

"Our goal is to serve veterans," said Anderson, who consulted with Browning before the board's vote. "One of the best ways to do it is to inform the community about the sacrifices that veterans have made. … We do look forward to serving that population of young people and getting them to be more aware."

About 54,000 military veterans live in Pasco County. According to the district, just one had contacted the administration to complain about students attending school on Veterans Day.

Having a weeklong vacation for Thanksgiving carries another benefit, as well, Browning added: It cancels two poorly attended days and reschedules them to when more students will come and learn. Absenteeism rises the Monday and Tuesday before schools close for the traditional three-day Thanksgiving break.

District records show that during the week before Thanksgiving this year, about 4,100 students were absent on Monday and 3,500 on Tuesday. During the holiday week, about 6,600 students missed Monday and 11,500 missed Tuesday, a 228 percent increase. Staff absences rose 35 percent, too.

By moving the Monday to Veterans Day, and the Tuesday to another class day, students are more likely to show up for instruction, Browning suggested.

Many employees and families asked the district to repeat the full week off for Thanksgiving after the board tried it in 2012. The difference that year was that Veterans Day fell on a weekend, so the district did not have to find the hours elsewhere.

School Board member Steve Luikart said he wanted to keep schools closed to honor Veterans Day.

"Everything we have comes from our veterans," Luikart said.

He suggested the district should find another way to make up the time, such as adding three minutes to the start and end of each class day in the first semester. The rest of the board did not follow his lead.

Browning noted that Hillsborough schools are able to have off both Veterans Day and the week of Thanksgiving because that district ends its first semester in mid January rather than mid December, as is Pasco's practice. Pinellas and Polk both have classes on Veterans Day and a week off for Thanksgiving.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong, a former teacher, rejected the notion of pushing the first semester past winter break, saying it's not best for students.

She voiced support for the calendar as presented, stressing that it was vetted by a committee of staff, students and parents.

"This is not a decision that is made without a lot of input," Armstrong said. "It is something that is looked at every year. If it doesn't do what we think it's going to do, we can change it."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

Ulysses Floyd remembers February 1968 all too well.Teachers by the thousands walked off their jobs across Florida. Among their concerns: low pay, poor funding, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. "We were at the mercy of the School ...
Published: 02/19/18
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Published: 02/18/18
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Published: 02/18/18
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Published: 02/18/18
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18