As a routine matter, Pasco County School Board members deliver reports during board meetings on the various committees on which they serve.
During the board’s Nov. 7 meeting, board member Colleen Beaudoin briefed her colleagues on some of the highlights from a recent District Vision and Success Plan meeting.
The report revealed that the district is making progress in some areas, having difficulties in others, and looking for new approaches, too.
For instance, Beaudoin said: “Under (the category of) employee success, retention is still a struggle. We discussed exit survey data and ways to get more specific information.
“HERQ (The Office for Human Resources and Educator Quality) will try to do more phone surveys with the instructional staff.
“Teaching is a hard job and many are leaving the profession.
“It can be especially challenging at schools with large numbers of new teachers because they don’t have — they may not have — an experienced teacher on their teams to collaborate with.
“So, of course our administrators are stepping in and other people are covering. But it is still a struggle.
“So, we need to focus on the things we do have control over, like addressing the workload and the behaviors that we’ve discussed many times.
“The paid internship pilot program has helped. We hired 90% of the participants, so that’s good — over 20.
“We also added 36 more TPG Cultural Exchange teachers,” she said, referring to a U.S. State Department program that allows qualified educators to teach in the United States for up to five years.
Beaudoin also noted there are ongoing efforts to increase the pool of available substitute teachers and to recruit substitute teachers who may be interested in pursuing teaching full-time.
“We’re waiting on details from the DOE (Department of Education) about the new teacher apprenticeship program — that’s the new certification program. We’ll move forward on that when we know more,” she added.
In the category of taxpayer value, Beaudoin said the district continues to monitor and diversify its investments, when it can.
She also noted that the district’s buses that operate using compressed natural gas (CNG) are saving the school system money because the fuel is less expensive.
The district also continues to meet its goal of having at least a 5% fund balance, and its bond ratings are good and even have been upgraded.
But Beaudoin added: “The capital budget is challenging because construction costs, like everything else, have increased significantly.
“For example, we’re talking about the new school opening.
“School furniture has doubled, and even, tripled in costs.”
In another focus area — excellence in student achievement — Beaudoin said the emphasis of leadership walk-throughs this year will be on observing the work that students are doing.
“They’re looking at the rigor of the work students are completing.
“In the past, the focus has been a lot on what the teachers were doing,” she explained.
“The district teams are reviewing the data to determine the different areas of need. It could be more training. It could be instructional materials.”
On a bright note, the district has reported a decrease in the number of course failures at the sixth- and ninth-grade levels.
But Beaudoin noted: “Students skipping class was a significant issue across secondary schools last year.
“The Student Code of Conduct committee made revisions to address this and the district will monitor the impact of the strategies that are being implemented this year,” she added.
Another piece of good news is that the number of college credits earned by Pasco students has increased over 38% during the past five years, and there’s been a significant increase in the number of students earning industry certifications.
There’s been a 499% gain in elementary students enrolled in accelerated mathematics programs and 64% increase at the secondary level.
However, Beaudoin asked the district to take a look at one impact that’s resulted from the acceleration in mathematics at the secondary level.
“With all of the focus on accelerated math, we have students who are finishing their math progression early — before their senior year.
“We want to give them more opportunities for more rigorous programs, and there are things available through dual enrollment,” she said.
But some students simply don’t want to take another math course.
This can hurt students when they’re applying to college — if they choose not to pursue rigorous programming their senior year, said Beaudoin, who teaches mathematics at the University of Tampa.
“It can also hurt them — and I can speak firsthand to this — when they take a year off from math, and then they have to take math in college. It’s really difficult. It makes it harder when they take that year off.”
She said the district needs to find a way to offer students something they are interested in learning.
“We need to come up with some things, and ways to encourage them,” she said.
She also noted that she knows this is a struggle at the high schools because she’s heard about it from principals.
Superintendent Kurt Browning told Beaudoin that a school board workshop is scheduled for Dec. 19 to discuss advanced academics.
He said he would get with district staff to include this topic at that meeting.
“It is an issue. We know it’s an issue. We will attempt to address that at the workshop,” Browning said.
Published November 15, 2023