Move of Longleaf children could result in legal challenge

Published Jan. 11, 2017

A proposal to reassign children living in the Longleaf subdivision to different middle and high schools has some parents talking about a lawsuit.

But the Longleaf Neighborhood Association won't be getting formally involved, if things go that far.

In an email newsletter to residents, association president Mark Ciske said lawyers had advised the association board not to participate in any suit that emerges in order to avoid future financial liabilities. Some residents had asked the group to create a special assessment to fund a case and act as plaintiff.

"Residents can move forward as plaintiffs on their own to file the suit. This would be at their expense, with the understanding that they can accept contributions from non-plaintiff residents and the Association," Ciske wrote in the newsletter, which was forwarded to School Board members.

He noted that if residents do file suit, they still could ask the association to contribute to the legal fund without being party to the case. That would require a neighborhood vote.

Hoping to stave off the need, several Longleaf residents have sent emails to the superintendent and School Board members, urging them to reconsider the current proposal that would send the community to River Ridge middle and high schools. So far, the administration has not put forth any alternative recommendations.

The School Board is scheduled to hold its second public hearing on the rezoning issues at 6 p.m. Tuesday, with a vote to follow.

CELL TOWERS: A plan to place a cellphone tower on the Sand Pine Elementary School campus in Wesley Chapel has drawn some concern from residents in the Meadow Pointe neighborhood.

Dennis Smith, chairman of the Meadow Pointe Community Development District board, wrote to district officials that he opposed the proposal for a variety of reasons, including the proposed location of the unipole near peoples' homes. He suggested an alternate nearby site owned by the county government and originally intended for a park that never materialized.

The county and school district could work out an agreement over the revenue from the tower, wrote Smith, who voted against the proposal when it came to the county Planning Commission, on which he serves.

County and district officials have rejected that idea, though.

Another idea Smith put forth was to place the new tower where an existing but unused one currently stands on the school property.

Smith has asked county and district leaders to at least entertain that idea.

"Our community has been very supportive of the school, as we should be. But the school has an obligation to be good neighbors," he wrote in a letter, on behalf of the CDD board. "The total lack of consideration by the District of the impact of this tower on neighboring properties and the dismissal of proposed solutions feels like a slap in the face."

The conditional use request next goes to the County Commission.

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EMPLOYEE AWARDS: The Pasco Education Foundation has revealed the finalists for each of the four school district employee of the year categories. Winners will be announced Jan. 27 at the foundation's annual Education Celebration. The finalists are:

Teacher of the Year: John Grice, Pasco High School; Robert Patterson, Veterans Elementary School; Angela Smith, Ridgewood High School

School Related Personnel of the Year: Loretta Hagerman, Richey Elementary School; Sharaya Janes, Gulf High School; Heather Pratz, Achieve Center of Pasco

Administrator of the Year: Brian Dean, Office of Teaching & Learning; Rebecca Musselman, Office for Technology and Information Services; Dawn Scilex, Hudson Elementary School

Nonbargaining Employee of the Year: Carol Jugan, finance services; Jenatte Smith, Mary Giella Elementary School; Joseph Zollo, San Antonio Elementary School

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or Follow @jeffsolochek.