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. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.
  2. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  3. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. 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
    As expected, the union rejected the district’s plan to add work for middle and high school teachers in exchange for more money.
  5. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  6. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018) Hernando County School District office, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville
    Hernando County debates the pros and cons of superintendent John Stratton’s recommendation.
  7. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    A new proposal also aims to strengthen programs at the university’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota locations.
  8. Fifth grade teacher Michelle Brandon is one of four Hudson Elementary School teachers to be removed after two weeks of classes because of her state VAM score. Here she reviews classroom rules with students on the first day of school 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  10. A deputy's Sig Sauer P320, similar to this Glock 19, discharged in the cafeteria of a Wesley Chapel school April 30. The bullet lodged in the wall behind him. The deputy has been fired.
    Cpl. Jonathan Cross was lifting his pistol up and down out of its holster when it went off, Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement