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Kids of no-shows could be expelled
Challenger K-8 may kick out dozens of pupils.
By TOM MARSHALL Times Staff Writer
Published July 22, 2007
Principal Sue Stoops said she reminded parents of their obligation in the school's weekly newsletter.
SPRING HILL - About 50 families from Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics got a surprise in the mail last week: an expulsion letter.
And it had nothing to do with student behavior.
Principal Sue Stoops told the parents they had failed to volunteer a minimum of eight hours per year, as they'd agreed to do in their admissions contract with the public magnet school.
"I regret to inform you that because this agreement was not honored, your child will not be allowed to return to Challenger K-8," Stoops said in her letter.
Families were told to contact the school if there had been an error. "Otherwise, you will not be contacted and your child's records will be transferred back to the zoned school."
In an interview Wednesday, Stoops said she took the painful step after reminding parents of their obligation in the school's weekly newsletter.
Parents can fulfill their eight hours in many ways, she said, including chaperoning school dances and field trips, attending the School Advisory Committee meeting or other functions, and helping supervise in the cafeteria. Some teachers send home routine tasks such as laminating or preparing cutouts for a class project.
"We put reminders in there from January to April," she said. "We're not looking to get rid of the kids, but we have close to 1,000 kids on our waiting list who want to come to the school. We just want to be fair."
One such warning, tucked amid a 10-item newsletter Jan. 16, stated it plainly: "Not fulfilling your volunteer hours may result in your child not being accepted for next year."
Reminders in two April newsletters didn't mention that consequence, but the May 8 edition said the school was being "flooded" with last-minute requests to help out.
"The intent of volunteering is to be involved throughout the year, and we cannot overload the teachers and classrooms the last months of school," the note said, saying the school would do its best to accommodate latecomers.
Stoops said a few families have called since receiving the letter to ask if they can still volunteer and keep their child's place, and those requests are being honored.
"I've had a call from one dad who's wheelchair-bound, and he's coming in now to do it," Stoops said. "This dad I unfortunately didn't hear from until he got the letter, or I would have gladly helped him."
School Board member Jim Malcolm said parents might complain they hadn't received adequate warning of the looming sanction, and he'd be willing to consider such pleas.
"But I'm not too sympathetic," he added, describing the eight hours as a small but crucial aspect of the district's magnet programs.
"I believe parent involvement in the schools is vital; every research paper you read shows it's vital," Malcolm said. "If they can't maintain that schedule, we'll get some parents who care enough for the school to put the time in."