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Hernando grows closer to magnet policy
The School Board will shift to a portfolio-only admissions system, with more tweaks possible.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 5, 2007
[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
School Board member Jim Malcolm said portfolio-only admission will leave magnet school seats open.
BROOKSVILLE - Inch by difficult inch, the Hernando County School Board made progress Tuesday on mending its rift over admissions policies for the district's three magnet schools.
Bowing to intense pressure from families, the board postponed the end of its policy of granting automatic entry to the siblings of children admitted by application until the fall 2010.
It agreed to abandon the idea of relocating the Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics to another building, or transforming magnet schools outright into zoned neighborhood schools.
The board also agreed to move toward a magnet admissions policy based solely on aptitude, rather than a mix of aptitude and interest. The percentage of portfolio vs. lottery admissions would move from 50-50 this year to 60-40 next year, with portfolios gaining an additional 10 percent per year thereafter.
But all of those decisions are subject to a final vote.
And several board members said they still hoped to beef up the current portfolio system, something that could ultimately result in fewer children being admitted to the magnets, and create space to partially zone them for neighborhood children.
"Something tells me that if we do math and science by aptitude, we're going to narrow our population," said board member Jim Malcolm. "Then you're going to create some empty seats."
That formulation seemed to please John Sweeney and Dianne Bonfield, two other board members who have favored including Challenger in a district rezoning plan to relieve overcrowding in other Spring Hill schools.
Board member Sandra Nicholson also favored that, but struggled with asking kindergartners to take a test or submit admissions portfolios, something Sweeney and Bonfield also have opposed. She suggested starting Challenger's magnet program in second or even third grade.
"It needs to be their work," said Challenger parent Lisa Perez, saying kindergartners' parents routinely help them construct portfolios.
Chairman Pat Fagan struck the toughest line, saying he "wouldn't even consider" starting Challenger in a later grade.
"Let's look at other schools and make them better, and not tear apart what we've done," Fagan said, praising the performance at Challenger, Chocachatti Elementary, the district's arts magnet school, and Nature Coast Technical High School.
But Fagan said later the board still faces a stiff challenge in devising a fair admissions portfolio or other assessments.
And until the board does that, Sweeney said, it won't be finished with the question of which children get to attend the schools.