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Concerns of parents over schedule, curriculum changes at Pine View Middle draw officials' attention

Published Jul. 1, 2015

LAND O'LAKES — Families at Pine View Middle School are tempering their criticism of the school's plans to revamp its schedule and curriculum, as the administration slows its efforts.

The discussion is far from over, though, as parents continue to keep an eye on Pine View's move toward implementation of the International Baccalaureate middle years program.

Their concerns center on two key points.

First, they opposed changing the daily course schedule in a way that would cut language arts and social studies instruction in half while increasing electives. The idea was to combine the core courses so that students would get both lessons while also benefiting from extra classes such as Spanish.

One mom clearly summed up the complaint in an email to superintendent Kurt Browning.

"Even if teachers of English and social studies combine their two disciplines into collaborative units, I'm concerned that students will be shortchanged," wrote Tanya Fuss, also a district high school teacher. "Although I can see the benefits of infusing language arts informational text and document-based writing with other courses, I believe that this type of cross-curricular experiment is premature."

After meeting with a group of parents, principal Jennifer Crosby posted a letter on the school's website announcing the schedule change would not take place in the fall.

Crosby did not back completely away from the parents' second criticism — that the school also planned to eliminate stand-alone gifted programs in favor of a mainstreaming model. Involved parents are still pushing for this not to happen.

"I know I speak for many parents of rising 7th & 8th graders when I ask you to ensure that the program stays intact," mom Julie Hankins wrote in an email to School Board members. "The only reason for disbanding given to us was that it wouldn't work with the scheduling of (the IB program). Now with that not an issue, there is not a sound reason to simply drop a proven ESE program at (Pine View)."

Browning acknowledged that the situation continues to simmer at the school, and said he hoped parents would eventually accept some changes once they understand the full scope of the plan. Still, communication remains key, he added, noting that parents might have been more amenable from the beginning had the school provided more information.

Colleen Beaudoin, a mom who organized the opposition, said she was willing to give officials a chance to work things out.

"I believe that they are going to look at different models and try to find one that all the stakeholders will be comfortable with," Beaudoin said. "So, at this point, I am going to take a step back and let them work on a solution."

MUSICAL CHAIRS: Principal chairs keep changing as Browning seeks to align leaders' skills with school needs.

Most recently, Marsha Van Hook, who had been a district principal coach since mid 2013, landed at Fivay High School as its new principal. She replaces Angie Stone, who transferred to Zephyrhills High, where she had once been an assistant principal.

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Along with Stone, who took over for retiring Andy Frelick, went assistant principal Matt McDermott, who will have that same post at Zephyrhills. Browning said he wanted a strong male leader at the eastside school, following the departure of Frelick and assistant principal Scott Davey, who transferred to Wesley Chapel High.

Some parents had advocated for McDermott, a well-liked coach and administrator, to take over at Fivay.

Two other east-county campuses also saw changes at the top in June. Pasco Elementary assistant principal Nena Green became her school's principal with the retirement of Katie Lail, who had led the school since 2011. And principal Kim Anderson transferred from Pasco Middle to San Antonio Elementary.

The Pasco Middle principal post remains open, though interviews have been ongoing.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614. Follow @JeffSolochek.

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