Advertisement
  1. Gradebook

Pasco teen spoke up to the school superintendent, and it made a difference

Sunlake High junior Alexandra Campbell’s email prompts a rule change even her principal couldn’t win.
Sunlake High junior Alexandra Campbell voiced her displeasure about a district decision about her school to Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning and, to her surprise, won a reversal. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published Apr. 16
Updated Apr. 16

LAND O’LAKES -- This is the story of a 17-year-old girl who fired off an email to school district headquarters and the 60-year-old superintendent who actually read it.

For as long as anyone can remember, Pasco County’s Sunlake High School has offered a seventh-period lunch.

Seniors with good enough grades and attendance could apply to take courses during periods one through six, and then go home for the seventh. The students benefited with extra time for homework, or just hanging out, while the cramped school eased its cafeteria crunch to the tune of nearly 250 teens.

Then without much explanation, district level administrators nixed the school’s permission to continue what had become viewed as a senior tradition that principal Mike Cloyd had every intention of keeping in place.

Cloyd informed Class of 2020 leaders. And Alexandra Campbell, who serves in student government and plays volleyball among her many activities, decided to take matters into her own hands.

Campbell, 17, shot off an email to superintendent Kurt Browning explaining her disappointment with the move, and offering some rationale for reconsideration. Among those, she cited positive student morale of retaining the incentive, and the possible negative consequence of teens enrolling in virtual courses to leave anyway, taking some state funding with them.

“What’s the worst thing they can do? Say no?” Campbell said. “I think it’s important to say what you want to say, because you don’t get every opportunity to do so.”

She acknowledged that Browning, who gets dozens of emails daily from across the 75,000-student, 10,000-employee school system, easily could have dismissed her concern as too minor to matter.

But he didn’t do so.

Instead, Browning asked for details from Cloyd, who explained that Browning’s team directed the school to end the student privilege, in part because the students were not actually eating during the seventh period “lunch.” Browning then sent the information to his assistant superintendents for additional review.

Betsy Kuhn, who oversees district operations, said part of the issue centered on the way in which such school-based requests get assessed, to ensure they are treated similarly. She and Monica Ilse, who oversees high schools, found that other high schools, including River Ridge, had won permission to do the same thing, with still others asking to do so beginning in the fall.

“It was just a misunderstanding,” Kuhn said.

She and Ilse advised Browning to allow Sunlake to keep seventh-period lunch for another year, giving the district team time to look at how the idea works across all schools that use it. That includes consideration of how the policy affects cafeteria sales, among other issues.

Campbell got the news in a brief email from the superintendent. To say she was surprised would be an understatement.

“It was very inspiring because it’s such a busy district, and they have many more things to do,” she said. “That they actually did consider it and went through it, they didn’t say no and they talked about it, it’s very reassuring.”

Word spread quickly among Sunlake seniors.

“Everyone is super excited,” Campbell said. “People I’ve never met before came up and said, ‘Thank you.’ It was just one email. I didn’t know if it would make a difference. But every little thing helps.”

Cloyd shared the enthusiasm.

“Kids can make a difference,” he said. “She won a fight I had lost.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  3. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  5. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
  7. Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia holds a back-to-school press conference at Rampello K-8 School, [TIMES files]
    MaryEllen Elia, who led the Hillsborough district from 2005 to 2015, has been an educator since 1970.
  8. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. [TIMES FILES] Times staff
    Two more public meetings are planned, and the online survey is up until Saturday.
  9. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The board’s 2019-20 budget totals $1.39 billion.
  10. The DeLucio family of Trinity toured the Mitchell High School campus and showed the visit on their YouTube channel, which has more than 1 million subscribers. Many parents, students and school officials were not amused. YouTube
    The proposed policy comes up for a vote on Oct. 1.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement