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Parents' plea nets principal a scolding
Challenger K-8 should not have distributed the "Save Our School" letter, the superintendent says.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007
Principal Sue Stoops (center) says she authorized teachers to send home a letter from parents titled "Save Our School," but used no school stationery, paper or other resources.
[Times photo: Keri Wiginton]
Principal Sue Stoops says she probably should not have okayed sending the letter home with students.
Challenger should have stayed out of lobbying efforts, says schools chief Wayne Alexander.
BROOKSVILLE -- Parents find the darnedest things crumpled up at the bottom of their children's school bags.
But families at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics may have been surprised last week to find an impassioned call to action amid the crumpled homework assignments and half-eaten lunches.
"Save Our School," the letter began, urging parents to sign a petition and show up en masse at a School Board workshop at 1 p.m. Tuesday to oppose changes to the school's status as a magnet school.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander said that mailing crossed a line, even though it was prepared by parents, since the school sent it home with all 1,450 students. That implied school support for a political issue, he said.
"It shouldn't have been passed out or sent home through the school," Alexander said, calling that method inappropriate.
Principal Sue Stoops said she authorized teachers to send home the parent letter, but used no school stationery, paper or other resources.
"Probably in retrospect it's something I would not send home again, but I did," she added. "I was the one who approved it to go."
Alexander said parents are always free to come to School Board meetings to speak their minds.
"The Board of Education and myself clearly know how the majority of the magnet school members feel," Alexander added. "But if they want to go on for three hours, it's okay."
Board members have heard plenty from parents in recent weeks.
They filled the board room at a recent meeting to protest proposals to admit neighborhood children to Challenger, or perhaps move the magnet program to another building as part of a district rezoning for fall 2008.
Some have also asked for reconsideration of a board decision to end preferences for siblings of students admitted by the current lottery and portfolio system.
Board member Jim Malcolm has been an impassioned defender of magnet schools, saying the district should build more special-interest programs and beef up its offerings for gifted children.
But board members Dianne Bonfield and John Sweeney have said the current magnet system at Challenger, Chocachatti Elementary and Nature Coast Technical High School shields those schools from overcrowding, and has funneled tens of millions of dollars in school construction funds to a privileged minority.
Alexander has already lent some support to the latter view, describing a school district with "haves and have-nots." But he said he's working on a recommendation that might give some satisfaction to both sides, perhaps involving partial zoning and schools-within-schools.
And Stoops said she was encouraging parents not to crowd the board room Tuesday and divert the board from its discussion of the issues.
"I think the discussion among parents is over now," she said. "It's in the lap of the School Board. It's their decision now."