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Pinellas parents want more fundamental high schools next year

The parents of students in fundamental schools appeared before the Pinellas School Board on Tuesday to push for expansion of the concept.

The leaders of the Fundamental Schools Advocacy Network did not mention specific goals or plans, but offered an information packet that made no bones about their agenda: the creation of more fundamental high schools — as early as next school year.

"We've proven, I think, that fundamental schools are pretty successful, and we want to offer that opportunity to all Pinellas County students," said Teresa Daiker, co-chair of the group, which formed in August.

Pinellas has nine of the back-to-basics schools that emphasize discipline and require parental involvement: five elementaries, two middle, one K-8 and one high school.

A fact sheet in the packet the parent group handed out Tuesday pointed out that an increase in the number of seats at the district's middle school fundamentals has created the need for more high school seats.

Last year, Pinellas expanded the number of fundamental seats from 5,696 to 7,176, according to district officials, the biggest one-year jump in the program's 33-year history.

More than 950 families applied for 450 ninth-grade slots at Osceola High, the district's lone fundamental high school. Students who didn't get seats were put on a waiting list.

The parent group would like to see a new fundamental high school open by the 2009-10 school year, said Jean Willingham, a member of the group's executive committee.

She and other members of the executive committee plan to meet today with superintendent Julie Janssen to begin pushing for it.

The need to create fundamental seats for middle schoolers moving to high school is obvious if you look at the numbers, Willingham said.

"I saw those numbers and went, 'We have a backlog there,' " she said.

Willingham's son, Warren, is an eighth-grader at Thurgood Marshall. Although she's not sure if Warren will attend a fundamental high school, she wants him and all rising ninth-graders to have the option, Willingham said. "The program should be expanded until wait lists are exhausted," she said.

The Fundamental Schools Advocacy Network plans to make a more in-depth presentation at the Oct. 27 School Board meeting.

Board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea said she is willing to discuss adding a fundamental high school but sees it as part of a larger conversation.

"We have to make sure that what has a positive impact on one group of students doesn't negatively impact another group," O'Shea said. "It would have to be a coordinated effort with our other programs."

Fast facts

What is a fundamental school?

Fundamental schools emphasize student responsibility, daily homework, discipline and require parental involvement. Children can be asked to leave if they misbehave or if their parents fail to attend regularly scheduled meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

Pinellas fundamental schools

Bay Vista, Lakeview and Pasadena elementary fundamental schools in St. Petersburg; Curtis Fundamental Elementary in Clearwater; Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary in Tarpon Springs.

Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle in St. Petersburg; Clearwater Fundamental Middle.

Madeira Beach K-8 Fundamental.

Osceola Fundamental High in Seminole.

On the Web

To learn about the Fundamental Schools Advocacy Network, go to fundamentalschools.org.

Pinellas parents want more fundamental high schools next year 10/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:42am]
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