Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco's Learning Lodge Academy charter school set to open in August

NEW PORT RICHEY — Kerrie Cuffe had "great experiences" in her 12 years teaching in Pasco County public schools.

As time passed, though, Cuffe found herself wanting more. She had developed a vision for what she believed education should look like, and she wanted to make it happen.

Back in 2011, Cuffe began laying the groundwork to open a charter school, as she pursued an advanced degree in education leadership. This fall, the Learning Lodge Academy charter school makes its debut.

"Mine is like a home-grown school," she said, noting that she attended all Pasco County schools growing up. "It felt right. I want to stay here. I want to bring my vision to life here."

The school, which will begin with students in kindergarten through third grade, including Cuffe's son Ryan, will focus on a teaching model called the Kagan method. That system, also used at the Independent Day School in Carrollwood, aims to get children more active and engaged in learning by training teachers how to create the expectations and classroom culture that encourages participation and cooperation.

Students will be able to learn according to their own styles and strengths, with many hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects that allow everyone to get involved.

No more "sage on the stage," Cuffe said.

It's a model she's seen attempted in other places with varying degrees of success.

"I have seen where it's not consistent or pervasive," she said. "I have been to model schools where it is lived and breathed. That is what I wish to create, a school community."

The school has not hired its 17-member teaching staff yet. But Cuffe said she has received more than 200 letters of inquiry, mostly from current Pasco teachers with whom she worked over the years.

Many students have enrolled, learning about the school via word of mouth. But more seats remain available. Learning Lodge has not done much marketing.

Cinnemon Weinhauer liked the concept enough to send her youngest child, Calle, to the charter and to join its board of directors. Weinhauer sent her other three children through public schools, where she met Cuffe.

"She is a dynamic educator, very creative, very passionate about what she does," Weinhauer said. "She talked to me about being a part of this. I was very excited. She is so competent and really knows her stuff."

So while she'll miss being involved at Hudson Elementary, where she attended and later enrolled her children, Weinhauer expects Learning Lodge to be "fantastic" for her daughter and other kids.

For a while, the grand opening looked dicey.

Cuffe was negotiating for property near Gulf High School, but the deal fell apart over finances. She had already gone through city zoning hearings and was prepared to renovate the site.

"When it came down to the final lease, it was like, we can't afford this for our children," she said. "It would have taken away from the program that we wanted to provide and that we promised."

In late June, she learned a private school abruptly moved out of the Unity Truth Center on Pine Hill Road in Port Richey. Cuffe called church leaders, and "we were able to negotiate a lease in six days."

She got the keys, volunteers began painting and cleaning during the July 4th weekend, and the building is on track for an Aug. 18 first day of classes.

Cuffe stressed that children do not need to meet any entrance criteria. Some parents have asked if there are income or other rules, as the school initially was proposed to serve needy children in the Hudson area.

"There is no policy for screening children," she said. "Anyone who wants to apply is welcome to apply."

If the school receives more applicants than it has approved seats, it will use a lottery to pick who gets in.

Two other charter schools also are slated to open in the fall, the Pepin Academies for students with special needs, and the Classical Preparatory School focusing on traditional liberal arts. With these additions, Pasco County will have nine charter schools.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

For more information

Learning Lodge Academy will be opening at 5844 Pine Hill Drive, Port Richey. Call (727) 389-0067 or visit the website at learninglodgeacademy.com/.

Pasco's Learning Lodge Academy charter school set to open in August 07/10/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"

    Blogs

    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

  2. FWC: Fish away for invasive lionfish

    Water

    Times staff

    What could be better than fishing and helping save the Gulf of Mexico?

    Add prizes.

    Lionfish, originally from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, are an invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico. [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'

    Blogs

    If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

    "That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.
  5. Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again

    News

    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.

    Queena Phu of Tampa and prosecutor Rita Peters arrive at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday.
 Phu, 27, has endured a long road to recovery after suffering brain damage from a brutal attack that left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]