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Schools get bonus cash from the state

Eleven Hernando schools are deciding how to spend their share of $997,252 from the state's A-plus program. The money arrived on Thursday.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published September 5, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - D.S. Parrott Middle School needed two teachers to lead extra classes in remedial math.

The cost: $2,700 for each instructor. The source: unclear.

So principal Marvin Gordon turned to his staff, and his school advisory council, for support. He asked them for permission to spend part of the money that Parrott stood to receive in the state's recognition program for schools that performed well on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

They agreed, and he hired the teachers. The group also decided to give employee bonuses from the school's $100,874 share.

On Thursday, the money arrived from Tallahassee.

In all, 11 Hernando County schools reaped $997,252, more than double the amount that six district schools received last year under the A-Plus plan. Schools that earn A's or show improvement in the state's accountability system receive $100 per student.

The deposit of $81,903 for Brooksville Elementary School had particular significance this year for principal Sue Stoops, who had to enlist a lawmaker to appeal her rejected appeal of the state's initial B grade to her school. Ultimately, Brooksville Elementary got its A and its recognition funds.

"We are just real excited about it, because they deserve it," Stoops said, referring to her staff. "I'm just so glad it worked out."

The first time the school received money in this program, it bought computers. The second time, teachers got bonuses.

"Now that it's the third year, we'll see what they come up with," Stoops said, noting the faculty and school advisory council had not yet met to discuss the money. "I really would like to see the teachers get part of it as a bonus. They worked so hard and so many hours."

West Hernando Middle School, which improved its accountability grade from C to B, also plans to convene a committee to talk about possible uses for its $121,913 award. Principal Joe Clifford said he will recommend that some money go toward supplemental classroom materials and some go to employee bonuses.

"The rising tide floats all boats at West Hernando Middle School," Clifford said, adding that all staff members - not just teachers - contribute to the school's success.

While acknowledging that the state's grading system does not please everyone, Clifford said he would not consider turning down the money. In past years, some schools have rejected the awards in protest.

"That's looking a gift horse in the mouth," he said. "I'm going to take whatever money I can get from whatever source I can find and reinvest it into this school."

School Board member Robert Wiggins shared Clifford's view.

"Is the A-Plus plan perfect? No. But it's there, and we have to live with it," Wiggins said. "Those schools have earned their rewards, and they deserve it."

The schools can get their money as soon as their advisory councils approve a spending plan. Since the program went into effect five years ago, all Hernando County elementary and middle schools have received recognition funds at least once.

None of the high schools has received any money through the A-Plus plan.

- Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at 352 754-6115 or solochek@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 5, 2003, 06:17:51]


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