BROOKSVILLE - Eager to boost test scores for struggling third-graders, Hernando County entertained the idea of calling in Sylvan Education Systems to tutor students.
Title I federal funds would cover the $156,000 price tag of the twice-a-week program. But the teachers union and School Board didn't warm up to the idea of paying a private company rather than relying on the district's educators, many of whom hold master's degrees, reading specialist degrees and national certifications.
Others balked at the high cost, and the notion that 83 percent of the money would go into Sylvan's pocket rather than teachers'.
"I have a real problem with this effort to continue the privatization of our students," School Board member Gail David said.
But with public money going to private school vouchers, the line is getting murkier for educators.
Diane Dannemiller, federal programs supervisor for the district, told the board that the issue is not dead, because another contract with Sylvan would come back up in September. Notre Dame parochial school has requested the service, she said, and the district is required to provide the same Title I services to private schools that public schools receive.
Seminole weighs new name for Pow Wow Festival
SEMINOLE - After years of calling the city's signature event the Seminole Pow Wow Festival, City Council members are considering whether it's time to change the name. Some wonder whether it's politically incorrect to call the event a pow wow, because it has nothing to do with American Indian culture.
Council member Janet Long said the name could be offensive to some, and that's enough of a reason to eliminate the words pow wow.
"I guess I'm going to take exception with that," council member Pete Bengston said. "I don't think we've ever used it in a derogatory manner."
The move to change the name was sparked by a resident's comments at a council meeting last month. Darral Maffet, a city of Seminole firefighter, asked the council to consider changing the name out of respect to American Indians.
Maffet followed up his request with a letter to Mayor Dottie Reeder. "A pow wow is a religious ceremony," he wrote, "not to be confused with carnival rides or atmosphere."
It appears the community will get that chance. At a council workshop Tuesday, Reeder suggested holding a town meeting in which residents could voice their opinions on changing the name of the event.
St. Petersburg puts alcohol rules on the table
LARGO - St. Petersburg appears to have rung the bell on Sunday happy hour.
After the city relaxed its ban on Sunday morning alcohol sales, other cities in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, including Clearwater and Tampa, also are pushing for looser alcohol laws, too.
As interest mounted, Pinellas County officials, who had challenged St. Petersburg saying the city lacked the authority to do so, expressed interest in creating a countywide ordinance that would equalize the playing field.
Unaware of the county's decision Tuesday, Largo made its move to relax the laws. The commission unanimously passed the first reading of its ordinance to allow restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic beverages starting at 11 a.m., instead of the current 1 p.m. limit.
Meanwhile, county commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the mayors of each city, hoping to come up with a consensus on blue laws so that they won't create problems for law enforcement officials.
School Board sanctions paddling as "last resort'
TAMPA - Hillsborough County School Board members on Tuesday made it official: They support paddling in county schools.
They also made one caveat very clear: It should be used only as a last resort.
The most recent debate over corporal punishment surfaced last week when School Board member Jennifer Faliero recounted seeing an 8-year-old boy cursing and screaming at school.
At a workshop on Aug. 12 where board members were discussing the hundreds of children who are expelled, suspended and transferred because of behavioral problems, Faliero asked board members to make a strong statement that paddling students is acceptable in some cases.
But many principals hesitate to spank for fear of lawsuits. Two local principals were added to the state's child abuse list for spanking children several years ago.
Board members on Tuesday also seemed hesitant to appear too gung-ho about paddling, but most agreed that spanking should be used only when "all other means of student discipline have been exhausted."
Tarpon Springs drops controversial library rule
TARPON SPRINGS - For nearly a year, outside groups were banned from meeting in the community room at the Tarpon Springs library.
Last week four of the city's five elected officials had a change of heart and voted to rescind the ban.
The city's library closed the room to the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State last year on the grounds that the group lacked the "political neutrality" required to use the room.
The group called the decision unconstitutional. In response, the city adopted the planned restrictions on the community room's use, saying it will be used primarily for library programs.
Tarpon Springs officials started to have second thoughts about the ban after a Central Florida religious group sued Dunedin when its library adopted a similar policy. The lawsuit charged that the Dunedin policy violated the group's right to free speech.
Dunedin officials settled with the Liberty Counsel of Orlando in April, agreeing to pay nearly $4,000 in legal fees and to change the library policy.
But the Tarpon victory will be short-lived.
Although the room is now open to all comers, it will be closed to outside groups next summer when it is converted to a children's reading room.
In short ...
HUDSON - Gov. Jeb Bush and hundreds of parishioners, benefactors, politicians, priests, parents and students gathered Monday evening to dedicate the first new high school to join the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg in 41 years. The $22-million Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School was built to hold 800 students with state-of-the-art athletic, fine arts and educational facilities. The school opened Aug. 11 with about 50 ninth-graders, with tuition topping out at $5,500 per student.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Responding to years of pleas by some of its 6,869 students, Pasco-Hernando Community College welcomed about 75 children into its new $1.7-million day care that opened last week on the school's New Port Richey campus. The school's hours accommodate the most flexible and the most demanding schedules of the college's staff and students.
Coming up this week
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mars and Earth will be closer than they have been in about 60,000 years. Clear some time. On Wednesday, sunset is at 7:55 p.m. and Mars' rise is at 8:21 p.m.; Thursday sunset is 7:55 and Mars' rise is 8:16 p.m.
Starting Monday, the Pinellas bus authority launches a deluxe coach service to Tampa, hoping to lure commuters and lighten the traffic load on the bridges. The 300X will start Monday and run from 8780 Ulmerton Road to downtown Tampa. The $1.50-per-ride express bus starts at 6 a.m. and will stop at six places in Pinellas County before making stops in downtown Tampa. The special service features a coach, luxury bus with reclining seats, reading lights and air conditioning vents.
- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.