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Superintendent denies he banned holiday parties in Hernando schools

BROOKSVILLE — To hear some tell it, Hernando schools superintendent Bryan Blavatt was setting himself up for a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Blavatt the "scrooge," as one anonymous caller to the St. Petersburg Times put it, had "effectively taken away Christmas from our children" by banning holiday parties. Blavatt's office received similar calls.

The consternation arose this month after Blavatt directed principals to ensure that no parties were held during class time. The goal, he said, was to remind teachers to preserve precious teaching time.

Challenger K-8 principal Sue Stoops wrote as much in an email to fellow elementary principals after an executive team meeting with Blavatt.

"Per Mr. Blavatt's directions this morning, there are to be no classroom parties or festivities during instructional time from now until the winter break," Stoops wrote. "He said if these are allowed, principals will be held responsible."

Word apparently started to spread, however, that Blavatt was forbidding any type of holiday event, during any part of the day, with a ban on food and gift exchanges.

Not true, the superintendent told the Times.

"That doesn't mean you can't have multicultural events, or something that has learning value," he said. "I just don't want it to be just a party. If you're going to focus on what's best for students, then you have to do what we're trained to do, and that's teach them."

Still, Blavatt issued a clarification emphasizing that holiday celebrations can be held during lunch, recess and other noninstructional times of the day.

He acknowledged that bringing food into the classroom "is not my favorite thing," but it's not banned. "I'm not going to take away sugar cookies, but there should be a teachable moment with it," he said.

The directive will cause adjustments at some schools.

At Challenger, for example, some teachers have traditionally set aside time for holiday parties, sometimes inviting parents, Stoops said.

"There are times where it's just a celebration, but it doesn't take the whole day by any means, and I wouldn't want it to," Stoop said.

Blavatt said he was especially concerned about middle and high school teachers giving exams and then coasting for a day or more.

He doesn't have to worry about that at Springstead High, said principal Susan Duval. "We don't encourage parties at this school to begin with," Duval said. "If a teacher wants to bring in drinks or chips after an exam is over, I'm not going to clamp down on that."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com. Find him on Facebook by searching for Hernando Education Beat – Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent denies he banned holiday parties in Hernando schools 12/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 6:29pm]
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