Sunday, December 17, 2017
Education

State fair, Hillsborough schools have lucrative relationship

TAMPA — The relationship between the Hillsborough County school district and the Florida State Fair Authority, tested this year by problems at the end of a student fair day, is one with a lot of zeros at the end.

Between scholarships and prizes, exhibit space and discounts, the relationship is worth $1.5 million a year to the district, according to a letter to officials who have been rethinking the annual student day at the fair.

Discussions began after unruly behavior on a Friday evening in February led law enforcement officials to eject close to 100 fairgoers. One, a 14-year-old private school student, was later killed by a passing car on Interstate 4.

Despite years of problems on fair day, when many public schools are closed and students get free admission, neither superintendent MaryEllen Elia nor the School Board expressed any intent to end the practice after the Feb. 7 incident.

Some board members said the fair provides opportunities for agriculture students, and for others to learn about agriculture.

While it's hard to put a price on those benefits, the letter from fair authority executive director Charles Pesano does just that.

"On an annual basis the Authority commits over $1.5 million to support its fair and nonfair agricultural and educational programs," he wrote.

The contributions he listed include:

• Nearly $400,000 in prizes, scholarships, savings bonds and cash.

• $277,000 awarded to Champion of Champion winners in livestock contests.

• $125,000 to promote educational activities, scholarships and grants raised in a golf tournament.

• $50,000 of exhibit space donated for Hillsborough schools during the fair.

• Discounts and free space for math league competitions, choice program expos and other district events, including high school graduations.

Money flows the other way too, according to fair records.

Midway revenues were the highest for any weekday during the Hillsborough student days, at $598,736 this year and $973,148 in 2013.

Addressing the issue of fair safety at a recent board meeting, Elia said progress has been made in meetings with fair officials and law enforcement.

"Everyone is rethinking how they work with the fair and how that can support the fair being successful as a community and family event," Elia said.

A plan described in Pesano's letter addresses the behavior problems on several fronts.

Students who arrive after 6 p.m. will have to be accompanied by adults 21 or older, who will be allowed to enter free.

Students using free passes will have to show school-issued photo identification, day or night. Younger children who do not have photo ID cards will get alternative forms of identification.

Changes will be made to the layout of the fair grounds to make it easier to identify certain areas and to discourage crowds from congregating in large areas.

There will be planning and public awareness campaigns involving school leaders, law enforcement and community organizations including Pastors on Patrol and the NAACP.

Students who are on suspension will not get the free passes.

Some area county school districts have fair days on weekends, said John Prestianni, the authority's finance director.

But to the best of his knowledge, no such arrangement has been considered for Hillsborough, as the district is large and, given its location, generates far more traffic.

"We're already very crowded on the weekends," he said.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

TAMPA — A high-ranking University of South Florida Health official has resigned amid internal concerns that he was giving special treatment to his assistant.After an internal investigation, USF System President Judy Genshaft was poised last month to ...
Published: 12/15/17
Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

TAMPA — A months-long conflict over planned pay raises has moved to a new phase with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association declaring a bargaining impasse with the public school district.The two sides, which began negotiations in late spring...
Published: 12/15/17
Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursemen...
Published: 12/15/17
Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school’s science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.Thursday was just their second time in the lab this y...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

TAMPA — Elementary school students programmed an electronic mouse to make its way through a maze.Middle school students directed an electronic vehicle to stop on a dime, then use its arms to locate and lift a tiny cube.When the demonstration was done...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17