Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Show of support saves Pasco schools arts program from elimination

LAND O'LAKES — Hundreds of Pasco drama and band students and parents have flooded school district budget town hall meetings this month to plead for the arts amid spending cuts.

Their message has gotten through.

"We as a staff have heard pretty loud and clear," schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino said Thursday, after spending nearly five hours Wednesday evening listening to a fifth round of public comments. "Elimination of the arts won't be a recommendation."

That does not mean, however, that the $10 million program won't feel a pinch as the School Board looks for ways to slash $60 million from its operating costs.

Schools might see shorter class periods for the arts, Fiorentino said. Teachers might split their time among more than one campus. But music and art will survive, she said: "We have to have well-rounded kids."

Board members have shared that sentiment.

Alison Crumbley, who hosted the Wednesday town hall meeting, said she has told district finance and budget employees that she would not support any mass reduction of the arts. She said she has seen their benefit with her own children, and could not justify slashing district offerings.

Steve Luikart, a retired high school assistant principal, added that his top priority in budget-cutting is to protect programs that directly affect students.

"We're going to have some really rough roads ahead," Luikart said. "For me, everything is still out on the table except the students. … I ran on that premise that students come first."

Luikart has instead pushed to investigate other options such as a four-day school week, saying it might be an option to save millions without sacrificing students' education. Fiorentino and her staff have not embraced that idea, suggesting it would have a negative impact on the wider community, including law enforcement.

The officials' comments about protecting the arts heartened Pam Marron of Suncoast Arts Advocacy, a mom who helped organize the outpouring of support for school art programs.

"That is incredibly spectacular," Marron said.

Marron said she and others hope to harness the fervor that the arts supporters showed during the town hall meetings to help the district find additional funding to cover arts education needs in the schools. She also was hopeful that the community in general has turned a corner in showing its backing of the school system.

Now that the board has completed its budget town hall meetings, members expect to conduct a workshop to begin setting priorities based in part on the ideas and comments they have received. Fiorentino said she hopes to have enough information in the coming few weeks to be able to notify teachers and staff of their employment status before the end of the school year on June 3.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Show of support saves Pasco schools arts program from elimination 04/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 8:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]