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Pasco legislators get schooled
Educators fill in the two state representatives on what the leading local priorities are.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 5, 2007
State Rep. Will Weatherford is in line to become the speaker of the House in 2011.
LAND O'LAKES - State Reps. Will Weatherford and John Legg are likely headed for big things in the Florida House over the coming years.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is in line to become House speaker in 2011. Legg, R-New Port Richey, looks likely to become one of the education-related committee chairmen.
They also want to make sure that as they rise, Pasco's interests do, too.
"The influence of Pasco will continue to grow," Legg told a group of nearly 100 Pasco school administrators Tuesday.
"We want to take this time to hear from you, learn from you," Weatherford added. "This is an opportunity long term for us to plan."
The two lawmakers met with the school district's leaders at Sunlake High to talk about what's likely to come out of Tallahassee regarding education. More than that, they asked for input on what direction the educators would like to see the Legislature headed.
The meeting marked the second, but not the last, session that Legg and Weatherford had the conversation with Pasco's top school brass.
"It is incremental changes that will make the difference," said Legg, who this year is vice chairman of the House K-12 Education Committee.
The principals had several concerns.
They asked for a one-year planning period when lawmakers make major changes to the way schools run, noting how difficult it can be prepare for new programs in just a few months.
They raised red flags about the difficulty they expect when following the state's intention to put the FCAT onto computers.
They noted how difficult it is going to be to implement the class-size amendment when it gets to the class-by-class counts.
"We would like to see it, and we know it was voted on by the voters of Florida, but we would like to see a modified or relaxed phase-in, a realistic phase-in," Long Middle principal Beth Brown said.
Both legislators had some choice words on that particular item.
Legg said there's legislation in the works to again try to tackle the amendment.
"I'm not a fan of the rigid class size average," he said. "The reality of it is, the time is ticking on us. ... You're going to see a proposal out of the House."
Weatherford noted that the House needs the Senate to go along.
"Hopefully this is a lesson to us all that just because it sounds good on election day doesn't mean it is good. We got duped," he said. "If I thought we could get something on the ballot to freeze class size, I'd start a petition right here."
Lacoochee Elementary principal Karen Marler talked about how difficult it is to recruit teachers to her school, which is located in a place where many professionals wouldn't choose to live. She asked whether the state might be helping with recruitment.
Pasco High principal Pat Reedy suggested that the high school graduation grade-point should be higher.
Throughout the discussion, one of Legg's aides took copious notes for the men to follow up on. After the session, superintendent Heather Fiorentino praised both for their effort.
"They didn't shy away from any questions. They were honest and they were open. That's what the Legislature is supposed to do," Fiorentino said. "I commend both of them for coming before a group of educators and being willing to work with us."
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.