Pasco families should get more school choices next fall, superintendent says

Published Aug. 13, 2015

As Pasco County's first magnet school prepares for its debut, superintendent Kurt Browning wants to begin planning even more school choices for families.

He's scheduled a workshop Tuesday with the School Board, where staff members who have researched the topic for several months will present their thoughts and seek further guidance.

"I'm going to be intentional about what we do," said Browning, who wants to survey parents and community members about their desires before finalizing any plans.

For now, Browning said he's leaning toward strong magnet programs within schools, rather than trying to overhaul campuses to full magnets. He's also looking toward a regional approach, so students living in southwest Pasco, for instance, wouldn't have to travel to northeast Pasco for the curriculum that interests them.

"I don't want to put a fine arts program in the River Ridge feeder pattern and that's the only one we have," Browning said. "That's unrealistic. We're looking at magnet programs within regions."

He acknowledged that expanding choice requires a major financial commitment, in order to provide special offerings beyond the usual curriculum and have the transportation available to help students get there.

"I'm not going to set up schools to not succeed," he said.

Browning also stressed that schools already filled to their capacity or beyond would not be left out of the chance to add programs. The effort is as much about keeping students from leaving those full campuses, as well as attracting families to schools with seats available, he said.

"If we're going to compete, then we've got to provide what moms and dads are looking for," Browning said.

In addition to the new Sanders Elementary STEAM magnet, the school district has in recent years added the Cambridge program to Pasco High and Pasco Middle, opened an aerospace academy at Sunlake High and established its blended learning Infinity program at several schools. Other career academies and International Baccalaureate offerings also exist.

Browning said he's hoping to make recommendations for new programs to the board by October, for a fall 2016 implementation.