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Schools miss deadline with assignment notices

Published March 10, 2005

TAMPA - When Hillsborough County parents applied for school choice, district officials told them school assignment notices would start going out in mid-February.

The letters still aren't in the mail.

Instead, principals on Wednesday received their list of newly assigned students, with instructions to review them for errors by Friday. Once the principals sign off, the district will let parents know where their children will go to school in the fall.

"What we're going to do is balance expedience with accuracy," said superintendent Earl Lennard.

Last year, the district sent out choice assignment letters before principals had a chance to inspect them, resulting in mistakes. Several children were assigned to schools that had no space, causing frustration and confusion.

"We'll still be in March when (parents) get their letters," Lennard said. "While I'm sure we would have liked to be earlier, I would rather have it be accurate, and I'm sure parents would, too."

Chief academic officer Donnie Evans, who oversees choice programs, said the delay stems in part from the decision to extend the application deadline from mid-December to early January. The district approved the extension because participation was below 1,000 students at the original cutoff date.

Ultimately, only 1,400 children signed up for choice - about 80 percent fewer than in the previous year.

"We're on time with our adjusted timeline," Evans said.

He noted the need to check and double-check every assignment to avoid a repeat of last year's errors. Area directors looked over the lists before sending them to principals, adding another layer of review this year.

Lennard acknowledged that the district's tardiness won't help its credibility. But "I would rather (the letters) be accurate and a week or two late than be wrong," he said.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at 813 269-5304 or

[Last modified March 10, 2005, 01:14:16]

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