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Idea that failed is latest derailed

After weeks of work and planning, school officials thought they found a better way to teach elementary gifted children. It involved changing the starting times at dozens of schools.

The School Board had asked for a proposal. But parents complained, and after two hours of discussion on Wednesday, the board killed the plan.

On the surface, the scenario looked to be a case of the School Board merely listening to its bosses _ parents.

But coupled with other examples, this unanimous vote by the board continues its trend of suddenly rejecting plans made by the school administration after they encountered any opposition.

School Superintendent Howard Hinesley responded last week by saying plans and decisions need to be made with the future in mind.

"You need to look at the goals for the entire year

.

.

. the big picture," Hinesley told the board.

Last month, the board initially approved an administration suggestion to name the next high school University High School (actually the board adjusted the title to University High School at Palm Harbor, believing it reached a compromise with upset residents of Palm Harbor).

But Palm Harbor residents continued to complain that their community was being ignored. The board changed the name at its next meeting, to Palm Harbor-University High School.

Last April, the board listened to parents who wanted International Baccalaureate (accelerated academics) classes in north Pinellas County next year. Although the board had previously approved a plan to start the International Baccalaureate program in north Pinellas in 1996, the board listened to the complaining parents and then told the school administration to start IB-type classes next year in all high schools, at a cost of $3.5-million over two years.

To understand administration plans better before they come to a vote, board members Andrea Thacker and Susan Latvala suggested more workshops to study topics before board meetings.

"We need to educate ourselves to what's going on," said Thacker. "We have so few forums to address the issues. It can't be done at a board table two times a month."

The latest case involved the proposed change in opening times at 47 schools. The proposal was made to get elementary schools that share gifted programs on the same schedule. Because there are not enough gifted students to warrant a program at every school, some gifted children are sent to nearby schools once a week for instruction.

Schools start at different times because there are not enough buses for every school. And because of the different times, gifted pupils at some schools did not get a full day of instruction.

"We shoot for 4{ to five hours (of gifted instruction), but some are getting as little as three hours," said Art Dimter of the schools gifted department. "The teachers always feel like they're putting things off until the next week."

Before voting on the issue, though, the board listened to parents complaining about too many schools starting too late _ 9:30 a.m. _ under the plan. The board sided with those parents in its vote.

"We didn't want to impact thousands of children for a few," said Thacker, a mother of two gifted children. She voted against the plan, which would have moved 32 elementary schools to the 9:30 a.m. starting slot.

But the board also heard last year from parents of gifted students, wanting more time for gifted classes. Members listened then, too, and instructed school officials to find a solution.

"One solution created another problem," Dimter said this week. "It's too bad for the gifted program, but I understand those parents (who complained)."

This latest issue is yet to be resolved.

If the schools started at the same time, the gifted children would get more time in the classroom, but it also would mean more of the elementary schools would have to start late. This past year, 17 elementaries began at 9:30. The new plan had called for 32 elementaries to start at 9:30.

Parents told the board that late times are a burden on working parents and a waste of the morning, considered a prime learning time.

The board wanted to look at other options, but transportation director Jim Gray said a new plan would take up to six weeks to develop, and that was too late to implement for the next school year.

So the board voted for the only other option, which kept most starting and closing times the same as last year (see accompanying chart).

The board won't talk about opening and closing times again until it considers scheduling for the 1994-95 school year.

As for the larger issue, some School Board members say they hope that giving themselves more time will better help them make a decision.

"Let's meet about it now," Latvala said.

SCHOOL TIMES

Pinellas County schools opening and closing hours for 1993-94:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

7:50 a.m. to 1:50 p.m.

Azalea

Belleair

Blanton

Cypress Woods

Eisenhower

Kings Highway

Lake St. George

Madeira Beach

Maximo

Oldsmar

Pinellas Central

Pinellas Park

Robinson Challenge

Safety Harbor

74th Street

Tyrone

Walsingham

Westgate

8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Curtis Fundamental

Gulfport

8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Tarpon Fundamental

8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Gulf Beaches

Majorie Kinnan Rawlings

8:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Childs Park Fundmental

Lakeview Fundamental

8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Anona

Bauder

Bear Creek

Belcher

Clearview

Dunedin

Fuguitt

Garrison-Jones

Lakewood

Largo Central

Melrose

Mildred Helms

Mount Vernon

North Shore

North Ward

Northwest

Norwood

Oakhurst

Orange Grove

Ozona

Palm Harbor

Pasadena

Ridgecrest

Rio Vista

St. Petersburg Challenge

Sandy Lane

Sawgrass Lake

Seminole

Skyview

South Ward

Starkey

Sunset Hills

Sutherland

Tarpon Springs

Woodlawn

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bardmoor

Bay Point

Bay Vista

Campbell Park

Cross Bayou

Curlew Creek

Fairmount Park

High Point

Highland Lakes

Lealman Avenue

Leila Davis

Lynch

Perkins

Plumb

Ponce de Leon

San Jose

Shore Acres

Skycrest

Southern Oak

MIDDLE SCHOOLS

7:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

North Ward IBIS

Safety Harbor IBIS

8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Southside Fundamental

8:10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Joseph Carwise

8:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

Kennedy

Largo

Pinellas Park

9:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Azalea

Bay Point

Dunedin

Madeira Beach

Meadowlawn

Morgan Fitzgerald

Oak Grove

Osceola

Palm Harbor

Riviera

Safety Harbor

Seminole

16th Street

Tarpon Springs

Tyrone

9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Clearwater Discovery

Lealman Discovery

HIGH SCHOOLS

7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Boca Ciega

Clearwater

Countryside

Dixie Hollins

Dunedin

East Lake

Gibbs

Lakewood

Largo

Northeast

Osceola

Pinellas Park

Seminole

St. Petersburg

Tarpon Springs

PTEC _

Clearwater-GOALS

PTEC _

St. Petersburg-GOALS

7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Gibbs-PCCA

EXCEPTIONAL EDUCATION CENTERS

8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

ADTP-Oakwood

ADTP-South

Hamilton Disston

Calvin Hunsinger

IADTP-Lakewview

Sanders

8 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Harris Center

Project Help

YMCA

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Nina Harris

Paul B. Stephens

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