Thursday, February 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Struggling little Pasco school deserves a chance

Trying to maintain a struggling neighborhood school in an impoverished area is preferable to shutting it down or turning over management to a private vendor. That is particularly true in Lacoochee, a hamlet of 1,700 people in northeastern Pasco County, where the elementary school doubles as the central fabric of an economically disadvantaged community.

Preserving the public school there is driving Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning's decision to hire new faculty and administration at Lacoochee Elementary. It is the least intrusive alternative allowed under law when the state Department of Education says academic achievement at the D-rated school is not improving rapidly enough. But it understandably feels premature to teachers on the ground. A quarter of the faculty just started at the school this year, and the decision to churn the staff came before students had completed the FCATs on which teachers will be judged. It also is indicative of the rigidity of a state scoring system that drops a school one full letter grade if the bottom 25 percent of the test-takers fail to improve their math and reading performances sufficiently — regardless of the challenges students face in and out of school.

A high turnover rate — 14 teachers and support staffers left in 2011-12 — is one of the contributing factors cited by district officials for the school's lagging academic performance. To improve stability, the district will offer teachers a back-end-loaded $15,000 three-year incentive. It likely will need tweaking, considering the first-year stipend of $2,500 could be consumed by high commuting costs to Lacoochee from other points in Pasco and the region. Browning already assigned a principal coach to the school, and the district will add literacy, math and science coaches.

The increased attention is welcome in the school serving an area where half the adults lack a high school education and where the median income is 55 percent lower than the Pasco County average.

Lacoochee, once a thriving community on a major railroad line, has never recovered after the Cummer Cypress Co. sawmill closed in 1959. Its poverty and criminal activity gained notoriety and the attention of elected officials after the shooting death of a popular sheriff's lieutenant there 10 years ago. The public school is one of the keys to an ambitious long-term redevelopment plan for the area that includes private-sector investment and state and federal money to build a $2 million community center adjacent to the county park across the street from the school.

Taking the public school from this depressed area would be an inappropriate surrender. Reinforcing the learning environment at Lacoochee Elementary will be a long-term benefit to the community and the entire county.

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Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

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Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18