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Guest column | Robert A. Barnett

Hernando residents and companies can raise student performance

The Community Foundation of Hernando County is very concerned about the education of our children in Hernando County. A June newspaper article indicated that two out of our four public high schools scored D's on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which is a direct result of the students' test scores. There are several things that county residents can do to help. Now.

Mentoring, partnerships between business executives and principals, and well-organized after-school programs have each been shown to have positive results in other communities. Please consider one of the following ways to help our children and our community:

• Mentoring. Principal Ken Pritz, and assistant principal Mary Krabel of Hernando High School contacted me recently about establishing a mentoring program for students who need a little help staying focused on their studies. According to Pritz, there are 200 students who need some extra help and guidance along the way, and someone to show an interest in their progress. They would like some help from the business and professional community to help mentor a child through contact once or twice a week.

Rotary, Kiwanis and chamber members, will you help again? This effort doesn't cost a lot, just a little conveniently scheduled time once a week or so, maybe even a phone call or text message would do. Call Mary Krabel at Hernando High School, (352) 797-7015. I have. Central High School probably also needs our help.

• Partnerships between business executives and principals. Here's what the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is doing in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, and it does cost money. They've established five PASS, or Partnership to Advance School Success, schools under a program sponsored by the statewide Council for Educational Change.

The three goals of these programs are to raise the grade level of Florida's underperforming schools; enhance the principal's leadership skills; and demonstrate how a partnership model involving business executives, principals and educational coaches builds higher achieving schools. It takes a corporation or highly successful and interested businessperson to step forward and take the lead by committing $33,333 a year for three years, per school, to implement the program. Matching funds are secured through the Council for Educational Change from the state Department of Education. Such funding can be directed to where the need is most urgent. Time is then spent with an education coach who works with the principal and the business executive to develop best practices for management and goal setting.

It's working to our south. Gibsonton Elementary was a C and is now a B. Oak Park Elementary improved from a D to a C. Palm River Elementary moved up to a B from a C; and Gulfside Elementary in Pasco County improved from a C to a B. By the way, a former Hernando County resident is the mentor for this school. Leto High School, a D school, is also the focus of a PASS initiative now. Won't you consider getting involved? These young people represent our future work force.

• After-school programs. With the help of unrestricted dollars from the Community Fund, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has joined with the YMCA and other community partners at Sulphur Springs Elementary School in Hillsborough County to establish a Community Learning Center to create conditions conducive to learning. The school has improved from an F for two consecutive years to a B in one year. A fantastic improvement. This focused effort has helped turn the whole community around. Now 225 students are enrolled in after-school programs to improve their learning skills, and there's a waiting list.

Can we get this done here? Yes! If someone or several of you are willing to get involved and commit the time and/or dollars, consider being part of the solution — individually or as a company. Just think how it'll help the perception of the local community. Just think about the impact you'll be having on the kids. Call me at (352) 796-5843 and let's discuss this very important issue.

Help build a better Hernando County today.

Robert A. Barnett is chairman of the Community Foundation of Hernando County.

Hernando residents and companies can raise student performance 10/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:03pm]

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