Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas middle school mergers pose sticky questions

A money saving plan by Pinellas school officials to close two middle schools after this year and move their programs to different campuses has parents and educators grasping for answers.

When schools merge, who wins and who loses? Who stays and who goes? Which school's traditions dominate? What will be the colors, the mascot, the curriculum?

A thousand questions remain after the School Board tentatively approved a plan Tuesday to close Coachman Middle School in Clearwater and Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg and relocate their programs.

Coachman would move two miles away to Kennedy Middle, and Southside would move 12 miles away to Madeira Beach Middle School.

The district says families now at Kennedy and Madeira Beach would have to subscribe to the fundamental concept, which requires parent involvement and has stricter rules on discipline, homework and dress. Those who do not agree to the rules would be offered a seat at another school.

Four schools. Hundreds of kids. Big changes in the works for kids. The School Board is expected to take the first formal vote on the plan Dec. 9.

"A lot of our people today are just anxious to have answers," Southside principal Michael Miller said Wednesday.

Staffers were wondering where they would be working next year or even whether they would have jobs, he said. Parents were asking if the program would remain faithful to the fundamental model.

District officials acknowledge that details of the transition have yet to be worked out, but say it will have to happen soon.

Superintendent Julie Janssen said Wednesday she will appoint a committee of people from all four schools to sort out how the transition will proceed.

One question that families and staffers will have to sort out for themselves is whether the changes represent an opportunity or a burden.

Laurie Frey, a longtime secretary at Kennedy, said when she heard Coachman might move in, she wanted to picket with a sign that said: "We are a good school."

She described poignant scenes during the school's Christmas drives, when children from poor families give to classmates with nothing. Students are well prepared for high school, she said.

She questioned why the district would think about ending all that.

"Well, it's money," Frey concluded correctly. "I guess that's all they are thinking about."

The moves are part of larger effort to cut $40-million from next year's budget.

Waiting to pick up her daughter, Kennedy parent Janice Szwec, 36, of Clearwater said she went to Kennedy, too, and the School Board should leave well enough alone.

But a few cars back, Fahro Fejzic said he would like to see Coachman move in. "My daughter applied, and she's on the waiting list," he said. "So that's good news for her."

At Coachman, there was mild anxiety that the merger could threaten a good thing.

"My main concern is that they keep the fundamental program intact," said Gail Winters, whose two children attend the school. "I'm just concerned the new kids are willing to adhere to the fundamental program."

PTA president Tracy Eads said moving "always poses difficulties," but given the economic climate, she is glad the school is being relocated to a place it can grow.

"It will give us the opportunity to serve more children," she said.

County Commissioner Nancy Bostock, a former School Board member, said her view is that Madeira Beach Middle is closing and Southside is simply relocating.

"By portraying it that way and by doing it that way, we have the best chance of keeping what works at Southside," said Bostock, who has a daughter at the school.

But Brenda Poff, the principal at Madeira Beach Middle, saw the move as a chance for the unique waterfront school to remain intact without the threat of being sold to developers.

The school celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

"It is still Madeira Beach Middle School," Poff said. "It just will have a fundamental (aspect) to it. So perhaps there's something in between."

The staff at Southside came up with a compromise on the name at least.

"We were just laughing," said Miller. "We were calling it South Beach."

Times staff writers Theresa Blackwell and Eileen Schulte contributed to this report.

Pinellas middle school mergers pose sticky questions 11/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'The Snowman' has a star-studded cast based on a blockbuster murder novel, but it's a mess

    Movies

    Mr. Alfredson, you could have saved it. We gave you all the tools — a star-studded cast, a blockbuster best-selling Scandinavian murder novel by Jo Nesbo, and three time Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. So why is The Snowman such a jumbled nonsensical mess?

    Michael Fassbender in "The Snowman." (Universal Pictures)  1213107
  2. Find every new Shine festival mural in St. Petersburg with this map and photos

    Visual Arts

    The leaves don't really change in Florida, but go outside and it's clearly that time of year when St. Petersburg's walls get a little more colorful.

    There are 14 new murals up in St. Petersburg for the Shine Mural Festival. [Eve Edelheit | Staff]
  3. Michael Connelly's 'Two Kinds of Truth' is Bosch at his best

    Books

    Harry Bosch's office is a long way from his former desk in the Los Angeles Police Department's elite robbery-homicide squad.

  4. Local craft beer of the week: Malt liquor? Yes — 3 Daughters Brewing's Ctrl + Malt + Del

    Bars & Spirits

    In 2004, Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery was well into the process of making a name for itself through envelope-pushing beers, like 120-Minute IPA and World Wide Stout, brews notorious for their astronomical alcohol content.

    Photo by Justin Grant
  5. History rewrite: What if Dalvin Cook, Lamar Jackson had landed at Florida?

    College

    Two days before suiting up in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field, Dalvin Cook announced a change of heart.

     Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) on a run in the first quarter of the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.