LAND O'LAKES — A months-long effort to redraw several Pasco County school attendance boundaries has turned sour after superintendent Kurt Browning announced he will set aside the work of two advisory committees and recommend his own plan to the School Board.
Parents who stand to see their children moved to different middle and high schools, and even some of those who don't, criticized the process for lacking transparency as options were considered, discarded then revived.
"My time has been wasted and I have taken several days off of work without pay," Heather Gerena, who served on one committee, wrote on the district's Facebook page. "If Mr. Browning was going to make his own decisions and ignore the decisions of the committee, why waste the time, money and resources that were used in this process?"
The process was "flawed at best," said Tom McClanahan, whose Union Park subdivision of Wesley Chapel moved off the list of those being rezoned from one school to another.
He said he agreed with the outcome, if it stands.
Bret Tobey, whose Trinity community of Longleaf is slated to change zones, said it was impossible to understand exactly what criteria were used to justify any of the proposals.
"The way the process is right now, you end up with smart people looking dumb and honest people looking shady" because it is so subjective, said Tobey, who has worked on school planning projects in his job.
Even some district officials shared some of these concerns, as the proposals go to the School Board for a Dec. 20 public hearing.
"I just think they went about it the wrong way, too fast," board member Steve Luikart said.
But doing nothing to ease the burden on heavily crowded Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch high schools, and their neighboring middle schools, is not an option, Luikart said. He is visiting the schools and seeking more information to help him make a decision.
And that's just fine, said Browning, who released his recommendations late Tuesday. He acknowledged the effort has been far from perfect.
"The board can make changes, put things on hold," he said. "It's my recommendation. It's their plan, their vote."
Hoping to influence board members, parents have flooded them with emails since the idea of rezoning surfaced in August. The proposals have changed so often that some parents have found themselves sending praise, then criticism, or vice versa, as their potential fates shifted.
Tina Dosal said she found it disheartening as she watched a committee adopt a plan to move her Country Walk neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, then not move it, only to see Browning return it to rezoned status.
"For him to do a 360 and go rogue is just astounding," Dosal said. "How is it that he knows better? What data has been presented to him that haven't been presented to anyone else?"
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Browning explained that his decisions came after reviewing the committee proposals and finding they did not meet the goals of rebalancing enrollments and easing crowding.
"I could have thrown everything they've done out and drawn maps myself. I did not do that," he said. "When the process is complete we're going to review it … to see if it continues to meet our needs."
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.