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    Community college worried about four-year school plan

    Leaders don't want a proposed four-year college in Tarpon Springs to recruit Pasco and Hernando freshmen and sophomores.

    By RYAN DAVIS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


    DADE CITY -- The plan to create a four-year public college in northern Pinellas County worries Pasco-Hernando Community College president Robert Judson.

    He told his board of trustees Tuesday night that the proposed school could lure away Pasco and Hernando County students.

    "My major concern is what might happen to us if they're coming up into these two counties and recruiting students," Judson told the board at its monthly meeting.

    He showed the board the proposed bill, which says the expanded Pinellas school would seek to ease teacher shortages in Pasco and Hernando counties.

    Judson and the board are worried it will allow the expanded school to recruit Pasco and Hernando freshmen and sophomores through billboards and visits to high schools, he said.

    He was scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Tallahassee with local legislators, including state Sen. Don Sullivan, R- Largo, who is introducing in the Senate the bill that creates the school, and Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey.

    Sullivan's bill would transform St. Petersburg Junior College's Tarpon Springs campus into St. Petersburg College and University Center, a four-year school that would begin by offering teaching, high-tech and nursing degrees but could eventually offer much more. It stems from a deal to keep the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus under the control of USF.

    Judson said he had no problem with the school's beginning to admit juniors in 2002, and no problem with its recruiting juniors and seniors from PHCC or anywhere else in Pasco and Hernando counties. The board agreed.

    "I don't think we should let it go any further," board chairwoman Judy Parker said.

    Judson said he hopes to have Pasco and Hernando counties deleted as service areas in the bill, a move he thinks would prevent recruitment of potential PHCC students.

    "Our effort is not to raid," SPJC president Carl Kuttler said Wednesday. "The ideal would be that we can do this all together."

    He said that if SPJC recruited at high schools in those counties, it would work with PHCC.

    The Pasco schools superintendent said he hoped the schools could find a way to work together.

    "I would hope they would not let something like a territorial issue get in the way of a program that is desperately needed," said John Long, who said he started this school year 100 teachers short.

    Sullivan, the bill's author, said Wednesday that Judson should not be worried but that he would remove the references to Pasco and Hernando counties if it would ease the PHCC president's worries.

    Fiorentino, who met with Judson on Wednesday, also said she would stand up for PHCC.

    "(The Tarpon school) shouldn't be going into high schools in Pasco and Hernando counties," she said. "That would be stepping on the toes of PHCC and that's something we're going to be addressing."

    PHCC offers the 45-credit program that freshmen and sophomores need to receive an education major from a state school.

    It also has a partnership with USF and has expressed interest to the school about having upper-level education classes at PHCC, said Paul Szuch, PHCC's vice president for educational services.

    USF president Judy Genshaft said through a spokesman Wednesday that she was not taking a stand for or against the Tarpon Springs expansion.

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