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School may adopt ex-principal's name

When he was principal of Sixteenth Street Elementary School and later Sixteenth Street Junior High, John Henry Hopkins Sr. was a stickler for high standards. He was known to inspect the cafeteria food and every lesson plan filed by his teachers.

"He believed in his faculty and his staff being prepared to the highest degree," said his son Leslie Hopkins, a counselor at Pinellas Park High School.

A committee of school and community officials have recommended that Hopkins' name be given to the school he so carefully piloted until the mid-1970s when he became executive director of the Pinellas Opportunity Council. He died in 1992 at age 82.

The Pinellas School Board will vote on the name change at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The board has a policy of not renaming schools unless they have been reorganized or rebuilt. In this case, the renaming of Sixteenth Street Middle School would coincide with its reopening next year in a new building at 701 16th St. S. While construction continues, students are being taught in portable classrooms at two temporary sites at 3836 21st Ave. S and at Osceola High School.

Leslie Hopkins said he got the idea for the name change after watching a pageant last spring in which students talked of a fictional school called "John Hopkins Junior High School."

"I thought it would definitely be a good idea to name Sixteenth Street Middle after my father, because he did a lot for students who came through that school," Hopkins said.

Lew Williams, an area superintendent for Pinellas Schools who sat on the renaming committee, said 30 to 35 letters of support have come from former teachers and students as well as "a former superintendent, a legislator, a doctor in the community _ just a cross-spectrum of the whole community."

Marlene Mueller, a Pinellas administrator who headed the renaming committee, said it would be the first Pinellas school to undergo a name change since the mid-1980s.

Hopkins was principal at the old elementary school until 1972. He went on to help organize the Pinellas County Urban League and served as executive director of the Pinellas Opportunity Council from 1974 until his death in 1992.

At its meeting next week, the School Board also will consider a five-day suspension without pay for a teacher with a history of making inappropriate comments to female students.

Charles Kard, a social studies teacher at Gibbs High School, received reprimands in 1977, 1985 and 1993 "for making inappropriate remarks to or about female students and for failure to exercise sound professional judgment," superintendent Howard Hinesley wrote in a memo to the school board.

Kard was suspended without pay for two days in 1986 for similar reasons, officials said.

District spokesman Ron Stone said Kard could not be fired under Florida's professional standards act, "but it's just been an accumulation of things. They have had conferences with him and his supervisors telling him he shouldn't be talking to students about their personal appearance and their personal lives."

Kard, who waived his right to a hearing, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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