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Pinellas School Board weighs Janssen's big plan, will vote Dec. 7

For a school district that some fear is stuck in a rut, it's billed as a way to regain traction.

Pinellas superintendent Julie Janssen's student achievement plan is a complicated contraption with a lot of interlocking parts.

But what it's supposed to do is really pretty simple: Bring more high-caliber academic programs to more students.

Put another International Baccalaureate program here. Create more fundamental school seats there. Grow a Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program here. Start a university-sponsored lab school there. Meet demand. Stoke demand. And who knows? Maybe even put Pinellas back on the map.

Unveiled in late September, Janssen's big plan has lurched forward through meetings and workshops, but not without hitting a few potholes. Parents at Palm Harbor University High revolted over a proposal to move the IB program to Countryside High. Parents at Lakeview Fundamental waved signs to protest a merger with Gulfport Elementary.

Some of the plan is still up in the air. But for all the screaming headlines over this piece and that, the bulk of it appears to be intact and headed for approval.

The School Board will hold its final workshop on the matter Monday. It will take a final vote Dec. 7.

High schools

PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY HIGH

Original proposal: Phase out the IB program and phase it in at Countryside to ease overcrowding and provide spots to Palm Harbor area students who district officials say are getting shut out of attending the school.

Status: Palm Harbor University High parents opposed the move. The new plan: Keep it at Palm Harbor but scale it back. To what extent has not been determined.

BOCA CIEGA, Gulfport

Proposal: Create a fundamental school within a school.

Status: School Board members appear to support it.

CLEARWATER

Proposal: Establish a Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program.

Status: Board members appear to support it.

DUNEDIN

Proposal: Create a fundamental school within a school.

Status: Board members appear to support it.

LARGO

Proposal: Create an IB program.

Status: Board members appear to support it.

Middle schools

THURGOOD MARSHALL FUNDAMENTAL,

St. PETERSBURG

Proposal: Beginning with the 2011-12 sixth-grade class, parents will have to provide transportation. Upper grades will continue to receive countywide arterial transportation until they graduate from the school. Deputy superintendent Jim Madden said providing busing just to the gifted magnet sixth-grade students at Thurgood "is still being discussed."

Status: Some School Board members raised concerns about the impact on low-income families.

Elementary schools

MELROSE, ST. PETERSBURG

Proposal: Turn Melrose into a laboratory school in partnership with the University of Florida.

Status: Little or no public discussion so far.

SANDY LANE and KINGS HIGHWAY,

Clearwater

Proposal: Pair the schools by turning one into a K-2 and the other into a 3-5.

Status: Janssen later proposed that Kings Highway become a fundamental school. District conducting further research, not for implementation in 2011-12.

SOUTHERN OAK and WALSINGHAM, Largo

Proposal: Pair the schools by turning one into a K-2 and the other into a 3-5.

Status: Postponed until next year. Parents and teachers at Southern Oak objected, saying they had not been consulted and did not believe there was adequate academic research to support a shift. There are also concerns with after-school pickup because the schools share a small access road.

Topics

Uniforms

Proposal: Require uniforms for all elementary and middle schoolers. Janssen said it would eliminate distractions and be an "equalizer."

Status: A majority of the School Board indicated initial support but later directed Janssen to instead craft a simplified dress code that identifies what students must wear (for example, collared shirts) as opposed to what they can't wear (like saggy pants). Members also said the changes should include high schoolers. Further discussion postponed until spring.

Pinellas Technical Education Centers

Proposal: Create more "centers for excellence." Redesign the Seminole Vocational Education Center and explore PTEC's role in supporting K-12.

Status: Still in discussion.

AVID (Advancement via individual

determination)

Proposal: Expand the program, which prepares students for more courses, to all middle and high schools as well as possibly fifth grade. Currently 23 schools have AVID, according to the school district website.

Status: Little or no public discussion so far.

Virtual school

Proposal: Continue to expand online learning (Pinellas Virtual Elementary, Pinellas Virtual Middle and Pinellas Virtual High School).

Status: Little or no public discussion so far.

PSTA buses

Proposal: Explore using Pinellas County's public buses to transport students.

Status: Schools and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials are developing a pilot program for students at Osceola Fundamental High School in Seminole, Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg and Bayside High School, an alternative school in Largo.

Extended day

Proposal: Extend school day or year at schools where student test scores show a need for more instructional time.

Status: Gibbs High adopted a longer day in October.

Ninth-grade centers

Proposal: Establish a ninth-grade center at each high school.

Status: District conducting further research, not for implementation in 2011-12.

Full-service centers

Proposal: Create "full-service centers," similar to medical clinics, at three sites — one in the north, the middle and the south part of the district.

Status: Gibbs High is establishing one, where students could get health-related assistance.

MAGNET, FUNDAMENTAL, CAREER

ACADEMIES (student assignment)

Proposal: Starting with the 2011-12 school year, applicants would rank their choices of programs, one through five; "priority" given to siblings or because a student is feeding into the program from a designated magnet or fundamental program would apply only to the first choice.

Status: Still under discussion.

Times correspondent Sylvia Lim contributed to this report.

FAST FACTS

What's next

The Pinellas School Board will hold its final workshop on Janssen's proposed student achievement plan Monday and take a final vote at its Dec. 7 meeting. Parts of the plan may have changed or be subject to change as district officials continue to revise and update it. Public comment is only permitted during board meetings, or you may contact board members at (727) 588-6300 or board@pcsb.org. For more information, visit pcsb.org and click on Superintendent's Proposed Student Achievement Plan under PCS news.

Pinellas School Board weighs Janssen's big plan, will vote Dec. 7 11/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 27, 2010 2:54pm]

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