Saturday, April 21, 2018
Education

Security is on the minds of Hillsborough students

TAMPA — The December shooting deaths at a Connecticut elementary school continue to weigh on the minds of students in Hillsborough County.

Throughout Tuesday's student forum, where high schoolers grill School Board members, several talked about safety concerns.

"At my school, any student can push open a door leading outside and anybody from the outside can come in," said Nathaniel Santana of the D.W. Waters Career Center.

Lindsey Backman of the Bowers-Whitley Center called for guards in uniform shirts, metal detectors, more fencing and maybe fingerprint scanning.

Kelsey Gemmil of Sickles High asked, "Will there be any type of training for teachers or guidance counselors to monitor student mental health more closely, starting at elementary school and throughout high school, in order to ensure our schools stay safe against gun violence?"

Board members assured their audience that, although a proposed $3.7 million-a-year security plan did not sail through last month, they are committed to tackling the issue thoughtfully.

A security consultant was hired. A workshop is planned in March. And last week, the board voted unanimously to tighten access at the least-protected schools.

"Safety and security are on all our minds, and it is the utmost for the board," member Carol Kurdell said.

Chairwoman April Griffin, who has argued for a holistic approach that includes character education, said "this is a discussion that needs to be a comprehensive discussion."

The question-and-answer session has been around for decades. Invariably there are questions about grades and school lunch. This year was no different.

Students wanted to know why they had to take final exams after winter break. They wanted to know why they risked losing exam exemptions if they took a day off to tour a college.

They questioned the district's decision to test out pay-for-play lacrosse at a small number of schools. They complained that the media centers are closed too often for testing.

"As I listen to your questions, it occurs to me that you are very plugged in and aware of some of the same concerns that we as board members are concerned about," said member Doretha Edgecomb.

Some questions were answered on the spot. Others will be handled in followup emails.

Member Candy Olson gave detailed explanations of state laws that affect exam exemptions and scheduling.

"The calendar you're now operating under was put in place when you went home and worked in the fields in the summer," she said. But these days, she added, the state frees up teen workers during tourist season.

Member Stacy White did his best to explain the lacrosse decision and urged those students interested in lacrosse to start club teams at their own schools.

Justin Zeger of Hillsborough High got a round of applause when he took a stab at the Empowering Effective Teachers evaluations. His teachers get weeks of notice before their peer observations, giving them ample time to prepare.

"The lessons that the peer evaluators get to receive are nothing like what we receive in the classroom," Zeger said.

Before explaining that the district has added spontaneous "drop-in" observations, superintendent MaryEllen Elia tested Zeger's vocabulary.

"How perspicacious of you," she told him.

 
Comments
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18
After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

TAMPA — Sam Sharf’s parents thought he had the best position on the Plant High School football team. As back-up quarterback, he could impress the girls but rarely played enough to get hurt.Now a junior, Sharf is off the team so he can focus his energ...
Published: 04/18/18

Gannon University’s Ruskin growth includes $21 million addition

RUSKIN — Gannon University is experiencing some serious growing pains and as a result, SouthShore is going to see a big change in the landscape. When it opened its doors in 2015 as a satellite campus for its home school in Erie, Pa., Gannon occupied ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Enrollment growth anticipated for Pasco County charter schools, with two more to open in the fall

Most of Pasco County’s more established charter schools expect to see their student population remain stable in 2018-19.Even so, enrollment in the county’s charter schools is expected to grow by about 1,100 children — or nearly 25 percent — in the fa...
Published: 04/17/18