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All school options on table
Restructuring committees look for ways to improve Cox and Hudson elementaries.
By JEFFERY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published October 16, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Barring dramatic improvement in student performance this year, Cox and Hudson elementary schools face potentially major changes in the way they do business come next fall.
And none of the options available to the district, including replacing the staff and breaking the schools into smaller learning communities, areout of the question, superintendent Heather Fiorentino told the School Board during a Monday workshop.
"We've allowed these schools to try," Fiorentino said. "We've got to come up with a new way to make things work."
Neither Hudson nor Cox has made "adequate yearly progress" under federally mandated No Child Left Behind standards, which are set by the state. Because they have not earned a B or better from the state - Cox received a D last year, and Hudson a C - they face district-led interventions unless their students meet the federal mark this year.
Already, the tensions are evident within the schools, where restructuring advisory committees began meeting last week.
Board vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey noted that many teachers started leaving the schools over the summer. She asked whether the time has come to offer incentives to lure the best teachers to these low-performing schools.
Fiorentino said she understood why some teachers are seeking other positions. They have worked hard, she said, and yet face the threat of being removed against their will.
Others might not want to be a part of the recommended solutions, which could include such things as a longer school year or extended school day.
Perhaps incentives will be part of the picture, Fiorentino said, though she couldn't guess whether the district's financial picture would allow for much.
The primary thing, she said, is to recruit and retain the best educators at the struggling schools. Some of them are already at Cox and Hudson, she said, but others might just need a little something extra to bring them there.
Board member Allen Altman, who sat in on the restructuring committee meeting at Cox, said he hoped the district will keep parents in the loop during the time when decisions are crafted.
After all, he said, so many parents love the schools just the way they are. To change them without their comment, he said, would be wrong.
Altman also urged the administration to put programs into place to help the schools now, if it can, rather than waiting until restructuring officially kicks in.
Assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said that is happening as it makes sense - both financially and academically.
"Where we have the data to support the need, we definitely want to help," Reilly said. "We don't want to wait until next year."
At one point during the discussion, Starkey complained that the documents in the presentation were so bleak, focusing as they did on schools in need of improvement.
"We need a chart that shows the good stuff," Starkey said.
To which Fiorentino responded, "Well, we're talking about the restructuring. And it's not pretty."
The board expects to sign off on restructuring plans for Cox and Hudson in May or June.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.