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Board to drop magnet school sibling policy
Siblings of students enrolled in the three magnet schools won't be given automatic admission.
By TOM MARSHALL
Published July 27, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - Siblings will get no free ride into magnet schools after the 2007-08 school year, the Hernando County School Board decided Thursday.
The board unanimously decided to abandon a policy that had given automatic admission into the county's three magnet schools for children whose siblings were simultaneously enrolled. And it asked the district to begin a top-to-bottom review of admissions policies at the schools.
"The admissions procedure is broken," said board member Jim Malcolm. "It's not working the way it was intended."
Under the sibling policy, nearly half of the 209 students accepted at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics were siblings and did not have to submit portfolios or meet other admissions criteria. At Nature Coast, siblings accounted for about a fifth of those admitted; they were nearly a quarter of those at Chocachatti Elementary.
Board members agreed that those children, who might not have a particular interest or aptitude for the magnet programs, were crowding out qualified applicants.
"You have made a great error in allowing siblings in these schools to begin with," said parent Esperanza Prevat. "My child is a great student, and she was put aside so a sibling could go in there."
She also criticized the board for allowing magnets to permit "mandatory volunteer hours" for the parents of magnet students, many of whom she said are already busy parenting or holding down multiple jobs.
"This is a public school, it is not a private school," she said, challenging the legality of such requirements.
Officials emphasized that the sibling preference would remain in place for students admitted to magnet schools this fall. Those already admitted to the schools will be allowed to finish their tenure at the school.
Figuring out how to improve the magnet school admissions process proved a tougher challenge for the board.
Chairman Pat Fagan said the requirements at Nature Coast were blocking students who were interested in learning a trade, according to many community members.
Several board members challenged the notion that kindergartners could submit a valid portfolio for admission to Challenger's math and science program.
"We expect some parent or grandparent involvement on this, we don't expect them to do it alone," said principal Sue Stoops, who said she had initially opposed the idea of portfolios for such young students. "Some of them may not even know what science is, but this gives them an opportunity to find out."
Board members asked staff to research tests that might show aptitude among young children, but left open the possibility of reconfiguring Challenger to begin in second grade if they weren't happy with existing assessments.