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Officials eliminate summer school

A drop in state revenues also means trims to Hillsborough County's out-of-school suspension program.

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 2001


A drop in state revenues also means trims to Hillsborough County's out-of-school suspension program.

TAMPA -- If your children aren't doing well in school, don't count on them improving their grades or making up classes this summer.

The Hillsborough County School Board eliminated summer school Tuesday as part of $63.9-million in cuts planned over the next two years. It also trimmed a popular out-of-school suspension program, despite the protests of about 40 people.

It was the second time in as many months that the board approved reductions in programs and positions.

"The problem we're faced with is a budget that must be balanced," superintendent Earl Lennard said. "We will face the same problem next year."

Hillsborough's cuts are the result of a drop in state revenues, caused by the waning tourist-driven economy.

The board reluctantly agreed to cut the two programs after delaying a decision last month. They had wanted administrators to try to find ways to keep the programs intact in some form or another.

The elimination of summer school will save the district $6-million this year. All remedial classes will be cut and only fee-based programs, such as band and science camps, will be kept intact if they are self-supporting.

Board members Candy Olson and Carolyn Bricklemyer said they worry about underprivileged students who may have relied on summer school to get their electives.

Olson asked that a committee be formed to help individual schools develop additional learning programs for their students.

"We do not want our students that are sometimes our most needy to be lost in the shuffle," she said.

"I'm just asking for a fair playing field," Bricklemyer said.

Despite the cut, administrators said students shouldn't suffer. Students who are failing are given the opportunity to make up some of their classes through after-school programs throughout the year.

High school students will be able to take some classes, such as driver's education, through adult education programs.

Lennard also presented the board with a recommendation to reduce the $1-million suspension program by $267,000 this year and make it self-sustaining by next year.

Last year, about 8,700 suspended students were able to continue their schoolwork at 13 off-campus sites instead of staying home. The program began as a pilot in 1996.

Lennard said the district is studying several options to find alternative funding next year, such as asking individual schools to chip in dollars to pay for teachers.

Glenn Barrington and Joe Newsome voted against the proposal, saying it was not fair to take funding from schools to pay for the education of disruptive children.

But several speakers warned the board of what can happen when children are left on the streets while suspended.

"What does it cost for a life?" asked Hilrie Kemp Jr., a member of Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality, a coalition of churches that pushed for the program. "We're talking about kids who have been killed while on suspension. We're talking about kids who have been raped. How do you put a value on children?"

Assistant superintendent Randy Poindexter said he would bring a plan back to the board in the spring about other ways to fund the suspension program.

-- Melanie Ave can be reached at 226-3400 or melanie@sptimes.com.

Budget cuts

The Hillsborough County School Board plans to reduce spending by $63.9-million over the next two years because of state revenue losses and cost increases. Here's a look at some of the programs on the cutting block and how much will be saved:

Eliminate summer school except for fee-based enrichment camps: $6-million

Reduce the Alternatives To Out of School Suspension program: $267,000

Transfer existing personnel into vacant positions: $10-million

Teacher recruitment and retention bonuses: $10.25-million

Eliminate the 210-day extended school year at Sulphur Springs, Oak Park and Robles elementary schools: $1.35-million

Reduce work force development programs: $2.5-million

Reduce full-service schools that provide space for social service agencies: $298,500

Reduce the Spanish language immersion program: $175,000

-- Source: Hillsborough schools

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