Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning is reviving an old idea this spring, in hopes that a new-look School Board might accept it.
For several years, Browning and his leadership team attempted to change the student code of conduct to permit children with unexcused absences to make up their missed work and get full credit.
They reasoned that students’ grades should be based on what they know, noting that some students might have no control over their presence, or whether their parents submit a valid excuse note.
A majority on the board rejected the concept, arguing it would improperly benefit students who skip school, while also creating added work for their teachers. The administration backed away from the notion, tackling issues around the edges in the interim.
Two of the opposed members — Steve Luikart and Joanne Hurley — have since left the board. And the district’s Code of Conduct committee has recommended giving the new board a chance to weigh in.
The suggested amendment, which comes to the board in a workshop on April 2, would make only a small wording change. It would no longer have makeup work for full credit be guaranteed only for students on excused absences.
Instead, it would grant that right to students with “any excused or unexcused absence," providing they meet all the other requirements, such as personally requesting the work and completing it within two days.
Student services director Melissa Musselwhite explained that the recommendation would clarify how missed assignments must be handled by all teachers in all schools. Currently, she noted, the code of conduct’s silence regarding unexcused absences leads to inconsistency.
More than that, Musselwhite added, the current rule permits students who have been suspended to make up their work for full credit, but can penalize students whose parents did not send an accepted note.
“It’s a very small tweak,” she said. “but it could have pretty substantial changes in the practices that happen in some schools.”
The two board members who were not on the board when it last discussed this idea said they were sympathetic to the recommendation.
“I like the idea of students being able to make up work,” said Colleen Beaudoin, a teacher who replaced Hurley. “If the assignment is important enough to assign to show the students need to know something, we need to allow them the opportunity to do it.”
She suggested she would be open to teachers being able to deduct some credit for late work.
“It’s a little strange allowing full credit makeup work for suspensions and we don’t allow it for students who just didn’t get a note,” Beaudoin added.
Megan Harding, a teacher who replaced Luikart, said she shared that concern.
“Parents get busy,” Harding said, noting how difficult it can be for a classroom teacher to get an excused absence note even when trying. “We can’t not give them the opportunity to make up their work.”
Students with excessive absences should be held accountable, she said. But that usually takes care of itself because they cannot pass the work successfully, anyway.
Board chairwoman Alison Crumbley, who serves on the Code of Conduct committee, said she was on the side of passing the proposal at the time Browning withdrew it in 2015. She said she wanted to hear more information, to determine if there might be some unintended consequences.
But she, too, pointed to the idea of children being dependent on their parents to get an absence excused.
Board members Allen Altman and Cynthia Armstrong could not be reached for comment.
The board workshop is scheduled for April 2, at the conclusion of its regular meeting that begins at 9:30 a.m.