Four months ago, the Pasco County School Board stopped a proposal to shut down Hudson Elementary, expressing confidence in the team of leaders and teachers assembled over three years to turn the struggling school around.
Things aren’t looking so rosy now.
Hobbled by health concerns, principal Dawn Scilex asked for a transfer to a less taxing school. An assistant principal left before that.
And now, district officials say, a third to a half of the 33-member teaching staff is following Scilex out.
“It seems like that team is gone now,” School Board chairwoman Alison Crumbley said. “This is a critical situation.”
The school sits in a precarious position because, if it earns a D grade or lower in the state accountability system, it will have to begin creating an improvement plan that would include hiring an outside management firm, converting to a charter or closing down — exactly what the School Board and community hoped to avoid.
Some teachers who remain have sent worried notes to superintendent Kurt Browning, who is trying to reassure them without understating the “difficult place” the school finds itself in.
“We are working hard to ensure that all HES students and families are taken care of,” Browning wrote to one faculty member. “I realize this is an uncertain time for the faculty and staff at HES. We will keep all of you posted as to the options as we receive the information by which decisions need to be made.”
The prospects don’t look too rosy.
The first round of released test scores, for third graders, showed the percentage of children at the lowest level in reading rise to 32 percent from 24 percent a year earlier. Another 35 percent scored at Level 2, still considered below grade level expectations but adequate for promotion to fourth grade.
The rest of the results are due later in the summer.
Because Hudson has been in and out of state accountability mode, it long has struggled to maintain its teaching staff. When Scilex first arrived, she replaced close to two-thirds of the faculty.
But she was not the only principal to grapple with turnover. The school’s previous principal, Tracy Graziaplene, spoke in 2013 about how difficult it was to keep a staff — even losing some during the middle of the year — with the threat of state-mandated changes constantly in the periphery.
District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the human resources department had a large complement of applicants for the Hudson jobs, and expressed confidence that the school would have all vacancies filled quickly. Select candidates for the school principal job, meanwhile, were scheduled to sit for a second round of interviews on Tuesday.