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  1. The Education Gradebook

Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

In a letter to Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning (pictured), the Florida Department of Education accepted the Pasco district's findings that concerns about Trinity Oaks Elementary's 2017 fourth-grade math tests were unfounded. [Times file photo]
In a letter to Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning (pictured), the Florida Department of Education accepted the Pasco district's findings that concerns about Trinity Oaks Elementary's 2017 fourth-grade math tests were unfounded. [Times file photo]
Published Nov. 16, 2017

Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.

But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.

They're just much smaller in comparison.

For middle schools, the administration has recommended undoing a planned reassignment from River Ridge to Gulf middle of children living between Little and Rowan roads, north of Old County Road 54 and south of Plathe Road.

That area, called zones 1-4 during hearings a year ago, would remain in River Ridge. It had been scheduled to transition into Gulf over time, but that move no longer is necessary, planning director Chris Williams said.

The elementary school zone change would not affect any current homes.

It would reassign an undeveloped area west of Little Road and south of State Road 54/Mitchell Ranch Road from Trinity Oaks into Seven Springs elementary school.

Williams said Seven Springs has more available space for the future residents.

The district plans to hold a public workshop on all three proposals at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at Ridgewood High. The School Board has scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 19, with its final vote set for Jan. 16.

See the maps and find a link to submit online comments on the district's rezoning web page, www.pasco.k12.fl.us/planning/rezoning/

CLEARED: The Florida Department of Education has accepted the Pasco County school district's findings that concerns about Trinity Oaks Elementary's 2017 fourth-grade math tests were unfounded, and soon will release the school's state grade.

But department inspector general Michael Blackburn has warned the district to keep a close eye on Trinity Oaks' testing going forward.

"As these Similarity Result Indices are highly irregular, it is recommended that Pasco County Public Schools monitor future assessments at Trinity Oaks Elementary School to ensure test security policies and procedures are followed," Blackburn wrote to superintendent Kurt Browning.

The department had withheld the school's 2016-17 state grade amid questions of "statistically improbable" outcomes on the fourth-grade math test.

An independent analysis, which the state has requested annually since 2011, looks at answer change rates, answer similarity rates, and "extreme statistical outliers" that might indicate problems with the test administration.

Trinity Oaks fell into that category. It was not alone: Pinellas Park Academy charter school was among those facing similar concerns this summer.

STORM ASSESSMENT: During recent contract negotiations, representatives for the United School Employees of Pasco encouraged the district to provide nearly $600,000 in bonuses from reserve accounts, not the general fund.

They learned that the district had depleted its reserves below the state-recommended 5 percent of the total during Hurricane Irma.

Why? More than 1,850 employees worked during the storm, at a total pay of more than $1 million, employee relations director Kathy Scalise said.

"We are using our reserve funds to cover that, because the projection from FEMA is five to 15 years to recover that," Scalise said.

That was just one of the upshots from Irma.

Other lessons the district encountered, as superintendent Kurt Browning recently discussed with lawmakers, included:

• The need for more medical support and power generators in special needs shelters.

• The availability of cots for residents and crates for their animals, as they flee the storm to schools.

• Better planning for transporting assisted-living facility residents home from the shelters.

School district and county officials are working through details for future emergencies.

TALLAHASSEE PRESENCE: For the past three years, the Pasco County school district has had its own staff lobbyist working the state Legislature.

Spencer Pylant's unexpected departure in the middle of committee weeks left the administration scrambling for someone new to present its viewpoint on education issues.

The district has advertised the position. But while conducting its job search, it's also seeking an interim solution in the form of a lobbying firm.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has scheduled interviews with some heavy hitters with strong connections. On his calendar were former aides to Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Tom Lee and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

He could have someone on board in time for committee meetings after Thanksgiving.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.