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  1. Pasco

Pasco charter school reaches tentative agreement for contract renewal

Countryside Montessori, an A-rated Pasco County charter school, has agreed to back away from two controversial proposed enrollment policies that school district officials were unwilling to support, paving the way for a contract renewal that had been in question.

School officials had sought to give preference in the enrollment process to students with previous Montessori experience. They also looked to independently decide which students with special needs the school would serve. In recommending that the board delay action on a new contract back in September, superintendent Heather Fiorentino accused Countryside Montessori of attempting to "cherry pick" its students.

"They have agreed to all of the things that we were negotiating that we insisted upon," district charter schools supervisor Nancy Scowcroft told the Gradebook.

There will be no preferential treatment for previous Montessori experiences, and if the school has concerns about its ability to serve students with special needs, it will have to meet with district officials and parents to make a decision.

"They are going to have to look at any student who applied to the school that is selected through the lottery process," Scowcroft said.

Countryside Montessori principal Dennise Ondina said the school made every effort to reach a deal with the district.

"We worked diligently and collaboratively with the School District to reach a mutual agreement on the language of their proposed contract, which was revised extensively," she said. "We look forward to another 15 years of providing quality education to students in Pasco County."

The deal and contract are to go to the charter school's board on Dec. 4 for consideration. If approved, it would next go to the Pasco School Board.