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Monday, Apr 21, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Changes coming for education in 2014

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WESLEY CHAPEL — Change is guaranteed in Pasco County education circles in 2014, as public schools prepare to fully implement Common Core State Standards, Pasco-Hernando Community College gets a new name and campus, and three new charter schools make plans to open.

That’s not all. Among some of the other changes or potential changes: Three seats on the Pasco County School Board are up for election, and United School Employees of Pasco will get its first new president in about 15 years.

For public schools, Common Core represents a significant change. Schools in Florida, 44 other states and the District of Columbia have been phasing in the new standards for a few years now.

2014 provides the big shift, though, as Florida says goodbye to its own Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and Common Core takes over, a move that’s not welcome in all circles.

Proponents say the standards provide more depth of learning and will better prepare students for college, the workforce and competition in a global economy.

A growing number of critics say the standards aren’t as rigorous as proponents claim and represent a federal intrusion into what should be state and local decisions about education. Some opponents express concerns that data collected could violate student privacy.

The Pasco school board has stood firm in its support and plans to begin the year with a series of community meetings at each of the 13 public high schools to inform parents and answer questions. The first meeting is 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 14 at Anclote High School in Holiday.

While the school district grapples with Common Core, PHCC is anticipating its own major shift.

The community college is adding two bachelor’s degree programs, and with those four-year offerings is changing its name to Pasco-Hernando State College.

The college is also opening its new Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel, with classes beginning Jan. 13. The college anticipates about 2,500 students for the spring and summer sessions at what is PHCC’s fifth campus.

The facility includes six buildings, though four of those are connected and sit atop a multilevel parking garage with nearly 500 spaces.

Meanwhile, parents in Pasco will have more educational choices when three new charter schools open.

Classical Preparatory School, which expects to serve 254 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade its first year, plans a curriculum that includes subjects such as Latin, logic and moral philosophy.

Pepin Academies, which already operates charter schools in Hillsborough, plans to serve special-needs students in third grade through 10th grade its first year and projects its enrollment at 325 students.

Finally, Learning Lodge Academy plans to target low-income students and expects to enroll 252 students in kindergarten through third grade its first year.

The school district plans to give high-performing students in East Pasco a challenging curriculum by launching the Cambridge program at Pasco Middle and Pasco High in Dade City. Cambridge is an academically rigorous program similar to the International Baccalaureate programs in existence at Land O’ Lakes High and at Gulf High in New Port Richey. In the past, East Pasco teenagers who wanted to participate in IB were bused to Land O’ Lakes, and school officials said the long bus ride was a deterrent to many students.

Also, students with an interest in aeronautics can enroll in an aviation academy that Sunlake High is starting in conjunction with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Just one class is being offered in the spring, but a full slate of courses will be available in August.

Voters could have a chance to make changes on the school board in the fall, with the potential for three races on the ballot.

Already, board Vice Chairman Steve Luikart, who holds the District 5 seat, has opposition from Marc Yacht, the former director of the Pasco County Health Department, for the District 5 seat on the board.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong, seeking re-election to the District 3 seat, has not drawn an opponent yet. No one has yet filed to run for the District 1 seat, currently held by Allen Altman.

The union that represents school employees also will be having an election this year. Among the offices on the ballot will be president. Lynne Webb, who has held that position for about 15 years, is retiring so the office is open.

The two candidates vying to succeed Webb are Kenny Blankenship, a union vice president, and Pat Connolly, a Land O’ Lakes High teacher.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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