Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco superintendent sees progress in work with state regulators at Lacoochee Elementary

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning's recent "butt out" letter to the Florida Department of Education has begun to yield some results.

Since Browning told education commissioner Tony Bennett that he wanted a state accountability team to stay out of Lacoochee Elementary School, department officials have contacted the district several times seeking input on how to improve their working relationship. The department also launched an online survey to gather feedback from districts on ways to better their interactions.

"They are changing their approach to coaching and instruction," Browning said after meeting last week with Pam Craig, director of the department's regional accountability office. "Their approach is more collegial. It is more collaborative. She actually said, 'We will only be at Lacoochee when there is something to do.'"

Browning argued that the state's assistance at Lacoochee over two years raised anxiety more than test scores. The school faces its third consecutive D grade.

"I told (Craig) I want to get away from the sterile, high-stakes environment when they come into any of my schools," Browning said. "She gets that."

State law requires the department to take an active role in implementing accountability laws, though, so stepping away completely is not an option. But the goal must be to serve the districts and schools, Bennett said, and not simply to push them around.

He welcomed Browning's criticism, and in fact invited any superintendent to convey concerns to him. Making changes to the state's assistance model is key to getting a positive outcome for students, he added.

"This is pretty new stuff, so trying to develop the model as we move is the right thing to do," Bennett said. "That requires some discussion and some give and take, with the understanding that the DOE is not the largest school district in the state and we can't behave as such."

Browning said he appreciated the more flexible approach.

"This is a district-managed turnaround," he stressed, making clear that the district — not the state — holds ultimate responsibility for the success at Lacoochee and the other schools that face an overhaul if they don't see student outcomes improve.

So long as state leaders accept that basic fact, he said, their participation is fine.

"The state is going to be at the table with us," Browning said. "I'm okay with that."

Some State Board of Education members have called for the state to have a bigger chair at the table, though.

At the board's meeting Tuesday in Tampa, vice chairman John Padget lamented that districts take too long to remove principals from schools that earn D or F grades. Current law doesn't mandate such action until a school has received three consecutive D's, or two straight F's.

Even then, districts can get a waiver for extenuating circumstances, on a case by case basis. Padget said one D or F is enough to warrant a change.

"I just think we should look for ways, when we have a problem school ... to encourage the local superintendent and his staff to be very aggressive on corrective action," Padget said. "This is too bureaucratic and it takes too long."

Board chairman Gary Chartrand mentioned an even more intrusive possibility of state takeovers, as Louisiana allows.

"Maybe that is part of the solution" for Florida, Chartrand said.

Browning said the state should take more responsibility for its existing role before trying to do more. The system doesn't hold the state to the same standard as the districts, he said.

"I get very frustrated that we've had a DA team in (Lacoochee) for two years ... but we're going to head to our third D," Browning said. "Where's the accountability on the part of the state?"

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at

Pasco superintendent sees progress in work with state regulators at Lacoochee Elementary 06/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 6:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over "inappropriate conduct"


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels' overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep


    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  4. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman


    TAMPA — When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Throughout her battle with brain cancer, Beth Caldwell, 35, keeps her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7, on her mind.
  5. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.