School wish lists? Budget is first
The May 13 Pasco Times front page was really like an Alice in Wonderland trip.
On the right side of Page 1 was a story with a bold, black headline stating "Schools draft magnet wish list." The story goes on in great detail about the plans that 10 schools submitted to become schools of innovation.
On the left side of Page 1 in small black type was a notice that the School Board was holding public meetings to elicit suggestions for handling a projected budget short fall of $26 million.
I really wonder about how focused the School Board and administration are.
Funding for new programs and planning for programs is really important but not when we are not willing to fund what we have now. The time has come for all educators to put our money where their mouths are.
Everyone agrees that education is the highest priority that we have in this country and in Pasco County, yet we hesitate to fund it, we don't pay our teachers (they have not had a raise in four years) and we plan for the future forgetting today.
To make things worse the FCAT writing scores have declined this year. Maybe instead of planning for magnet schools we should hire some writing teachers to teach our kids.
I understand that spending $200,000 to consider magnet schools is a drop in the bucket in a multimillion-dollar budget, but it could pay for a writing teacher.
I really hope people tell the board members that we are worried. Ask them to set priorities and maybe even have the courage to raise the tax rate so we can have teachers paid a living wage and students given the tools to make the most of their education.
Joan Shapiro, Hudson
A four-day week could save money
The Pasco County School Board is again looking for input on how to save $26 million. The district has already spent a considerable amount of time exploring options yet the best option is being ignored. One solution to saving the district some of that $26 million is to go to a four-day school week.
Through town hall meetings and public surveys, parents, teachers and students alike lauded the idea of a four-day school week. According to the public survey conducted for the district by Hanover Research, 45 percent of respondents were either strongly in favor or in favor of a modified school week and 37 percent were either strongly opposed or opposed. Results of the Hanover survey are available on the district's website. (Editor's note: Go to links.tampabay.com to see the survey results.) I have attended the town hall meetings where a representative sampling of Pasco County citizens have spoken in favor of the option. Have those speeches fallen on deaf ears?
Some parents may be concerned by child care issues. Child care would be handled by Pasco's PLACE program, which is less expensive than private day care and can employ Pasco school employees. Hillsborough County parents have worked with similar child care issues due to monthly teacher planning days, when students are released early. Pasco parents can make the same concessions.
Studies show that there is no decrease in learning with a four-day school week. In fact, there is an increase in efficiency of learning. Although the Pasco Sheriff's Office reported a projected 2 percent increase over 10 years, studies have also shown no change in the crime rate.
There are hundreds of schools operating on a four-day week in the United States. Schools that have a four-day school week have an increase in attendance for both students and staff, morale increases, student achievement improves and the number of referrals and dropouts declines.
Why the district is not respecting the option that has already been considered, I do not know. We have a solution. Let's use it.
Tracey Suits, Land O'Lakes
A magnet model at Dayspring
It appears that Pasco County students will soon be offered more learning opportunities with magnet-themed schools added to the district. The magnet-themed school model will provide students and families within Pasco County additional innovative learning opportunities.
The model, however, is not new to our county. Since 2000, as the first magnet-themed school in the district, Dayspring Academy for Education and the Arts has utilized a research-based model of parental involvement and the arts with tremendous success.
This magnet-themed model focuses on five key components: Parental choice and requiring parents' engagement in their children's education; developing a culture of high academic standards to allow children to excel; integration of the arts in the school curriculum; promoting high moral and character standards within the school; and maintaining a high level of teacher quality.
I wish the Pasco County School District success as it takes the next step in providing high quality, parental choice education.
Rep. John Legg, Port Richey
Animal Services needs your help
While most moms spent Monday morning telling their co-workers about the flowers, cards and gifts they received from their beloved families, at Pasco County Animal Services two beautiful mama cats, their kittens and a total of 28 cats and dogs were scheduled to be euthanized.
Meanwhile, the beautiful $3.5 million state-of-the-art, 12,000-square-foot adoption center with the capacity to hold 78 dogs and as many cats, is not even half full. Why?
Look at the Facebook page for Pasco County Animal Services Adoption Partners. Go to their photo section and see a folder of "adoptables," which contains only 35 or so dogs and cats. Then check out the "urgent dogs" and "urgent cats" folders — there are 54 animals total. These are the animals that are either found as strays or surrendered by their owners. The strays have 72 hours before they are killed; the surrenders have 48 hours if they are lucky. The hope is that rescue organizations in the area will step up and take these animals.
Local rescues have already stepped up to take many of these animals and volunteer cross-posters spent their Mother's Day working tirelessly to network these animals and hopefully save more.
In the "gone but not forgotten" folder are more than 140 cats and dogs killed in less than two months. Yet there is no logic to which is put to sleep. A perfectly healthy animal will be put to sleep yet recently a beautiful Husky was brought in who was hit by a car and was left to suffer all weekend until a rescue organization took her to their vet at a cost of $6,000. Some animals seem to get several days/weeks, others just hours. Why are more of these animals not selected for the adoption program?
Please help us draw attention to this terrible situation. These animals deserve so much better. The funds are there. The help is there. What is lacking is some organization.
Joanne Wilde, Largo
Thank you, Pasco Fire Rescue
I want to commend the actions of the fine men and women who serve the citizens of Pasco County through the Pasco County Fire Rescue. The professional and caring manner with which they conduct their services could not have been better expressed than during the recent 111-acre fire in Hudson. The dedication and exemplary skills secured the safety of all our residents. This no-injury feat is a remarkable testament to their determination and aptitude.
The dispatch center handled the overwhelming responsibility with calm and unequaled professionalism. The command center at Station 10 operated efficiently and with determination that successfully saved the many homes in Club Wildwood Mobile Home Park and, doubtless, lives also.
Thomas B. Dobies, New Port Richey