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Parents group backs busing plan _ sort of

(ran NS, S editions of Tampa Bay and State)

A parents group on Thursday night unanimously endorsed the idea of changing the school district's desegregation plan.

But the Pinellas County Council of PTAs stopped short of endorsing Superintendent Howard Hinesley's specific recommendations, saying the group needs time to examine them.

"The thing we're most pleased with is it's not looking at just numbers" of black and white students, council President Carol Cook said of Hinesley's diverse proposal.

While Hinesley's plan does propose changing the 30 percent court-ordered cap on the number of black children who can attend each public school, it also has educational components. Hinesley has suggested forming "coalitions" of low-income schools. Those would be schools grouped together to trade information and tactics to help improve student learning.

"We want the education they're receiving when they get there to be worth the trip," Cook said of children who must be bused for desegregation.

In approving the "concept" of the plan, the group is only endorsing the idea of change, said Jenny Ruechel, the school education chairman of the PTA county council. The vote does not mean the group supports any or all of the aspects of the plan, she said.

Mike Corder, a member of the Bay Point School PTA, said he thought supporting the concept indeed meant the group is endorsing the plan. But members of the council disagreed, passing the motion unanimously.

Cook said parts of the proposal, such as the educational component and desire for increased parental involvement, are good, she said. There may be flaws,and as more people comment and changes are made, the PTA county council will respond to them.

Basically, council members will keep an open mind, said Anne Wiley, a St. Petersburg High School PTA member.

Pat Kiesylis, another member of the Bay Point School PTA, urged the group to support the concept. The group's membership is looking for leadership, she said.

"We can't just waffle on this," Kiesylis said.

After the meeting, Cook said the group will present its resolution to the School Board at Tuesday's meeting. The endorsement also carries a request that her group and parents not be left out when the final decision is made.

As for objections and specific aspects of the proposal, Cook said the group wants to tear it apart and see if there is any substance to them.

For example, the PTA will not support all-white or all-black schools; however, Cook said she does not think the proposal will create those. In the case of changing ratios, she said, it sounds like a huge jump to go from 30 percent black students in a school to 35 or 40 percent. If one looks at the actual numbers, Cook said, it could mean only 12 more students.

When it's looked at that way, Cook said, it may not be "as big a deal."