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Parent: Don't shut us out after transfer

The fundamental-school concept, which requires active parental involvement, no longer will be a unique idea as Pasco adopts its version of statewide reforms.

At least that's what Pasco school administrators have used to bolster their argument against continuing the concept when pupils at Richey Fundamental School move to the new Cotee River Elementary this fall.

But a Pasco parent emotionally reminded School Board members Tuesday that the state's reform law, commonly called Blueprint 2000, allows diversity and flexibility. Its local control focus should mean that if there is demand for a fundamental school, the district will permit one to exist, Harriet Mathews said.

She, her husband, Mark, and a handful of other parents have become extremely active in the district. A number of the most involved parents have children at Richey Fundamental School, which will become a neighborhood school in 1994-95 when Cotee Elementary School opens in New Port Richey.

The fundamental concept will be used at Cotee for children who attended Richey and their siblings, but is scheduled to be phased out.

"If I had a vision for the district," Mrs. Mathews said, "it would be that every school is a wanted school."

Mrs. Mathews has read the research behind Blueprint 2000 and says that using the state's reform law as a guide, parents and teachers who want to do things a particular way should be able to.

School advisory councils consisting of parents, teachers and others interested in education write improvement plans for Florida schools. Mrs. Mathews said that Richey's council recommended that the fundamental concept be used at Cotee. But the new school will have its own council for such recommendations.

The so-called "Richey parents" who have stirred up the district by opposing changes in the grading system and questioning Blueprint 2000 won't go away, she said.

She also addressed the bad feelings between some parents and school administrators. Her voice cracking, Mrs. Mathews said, "I feel that I haven't done anything to create that bitterness, yet it's been directed at parents of our school."

Richey currently has pupils from across the district. Originally, its classes were smaller than those of the other schools, but growth over the years has meant Richey classes also have gotten larger. However, it is insulated from some growth pressures as it does not have to accept new pupils once the school year begins. A primary reason that administrators are suggesting that both Richey and Cotee should become neighborhood schools is to relieve overcrowding in southwest Pasco.

The board will have a final vote on new school boundaries at its March 15 meeting and also will soon consider a "School Family Partnership Agreement," which was proposed by board member Kathleen Wolf.

Her plan wasn't a response to Mrs. Mathews' concerns, but Wolf had talked to Richey parents. Wolf said that as part of a Blueprint 2000 communitywide approach, the district has formed partnerships with businesses and service agencies.

"I think we're missing the most important part, which is the families of our students," Wolf said.