Pasco County is in the midst of its redistricting process and the school board is interested in being involved.
On Oct. 5, the school board asked its attorney, Dennis Alfonso, to reach out to the county to let them know of their interest.
The request came after Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent, said he’d had some discussions with members of the Pasco County Commission and learned “they are actively involved in redrawing those boundaries.”
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, following the completion of the United States decennial census.
Changes to district maps are made based on changes to the population, but the way the lines are drawn in redistricting can have a significant influence regarding whom is elected to a particular office. So, those interested in the political process tend to keep a close eye on redistricting.
When the redistricting issue surfaced at the school board meeting, Alfonso noted: “Just to remind the board that we’re not bound by whatever redistricting is done by the county, but as a historical practice, it’s been practical for the board to just accept those districts.
“It’s not required by law, so the board, could in fact, draw its own boundaries, if it chose to do that.
“Either way, I’ll at least reach out and speak with the county attorney’s office to say, ‘Hey, we’re aware of this and we want to know whether or not we’re invited to participate in the discussions,’” Alfonso said.
School board chairman Allen Altman responded: “We went through that process 10 years ago. We cooperated together,” and noted that historically that’s been the case.
Altman told Alfonso: “If you would reach out to them on behalf of the board, let them know that we’d like to see what they are working on and participate in the process.
“My understanding is that they are the recipient of the (U.S. Census) information, and that it flows through them. And, we have heard nothing, so communication would be appreciated,” Altman said.
School board member Alison Crumbley added: “As I recall, 10 years ago, we had a co-meeting with them.”
Altman responded: “We did. So, we will go to work on that.”
Superintendent Kurt Browning announced that the district just completed its reaccreditation process, which occurs every five years.
It will be receiving the full report in coming weeks, but the district has been informed that it will recommend a continued system accreditation, Browning said.
“It is all about continuous improvement, how we become a better district,” he added.
In his remarks to the school board, Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, noted that negotiations continue between the union and the district.
“We are hoping to be able to finalize the $1,000 payments to those employees who are not covered by the state (Gov. Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 bonus plan) very soon,” Peace said.
The union also hopes that negotiations will include how the district can move toward “addressing longtime teachers and raising the ceiling on teacher salaries, as these are the leaders and role models we desire to keep in front of our students.”
The union also is interested in lessening the amount of required paperwork.
“Let’s work together to streamline data where we can,” Peace said.
On another topic, the board approved additional spending for extra instructional time to help close achievement gaps for students and to help support students who are below grade level.
In keeping with the grant requirements, the program targets students who are performing below grade level in one or more academic areas, according to agenda background materials.
The extra instruction will be provided from Oct. 18 to March 11.
The elementary extended school day program will focus on reading and mathematics. The secondary extended day program will focus on core content courses.
A total of 11,500 instructional hours will be devoted to elementary students; 2,628 for middle school students and 9,824 hours for high school students.
On another issue, board member Colleen Beaudoin reminded parents that the district’s school choice program, known as Pasco Pathways, will be hosting virtual expos soon to familiarize parents with the various education options available in the district.
The virtual expo for West Pasco is scheduled for Nov. 15 and the virtual expo for East Pasco is set for Nov. 18. Each expo is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Beaudoin said she wanted to draw attention to the expos, to help ensure parents will be able to take advantage of them.
“I frequently have parents say they didn’t know there were certain programs available at schools,” she said.
“I would like to encourage parents to please attend the (virtual) expos and then you’ll learn all of the things that are offered at the different schools, and then you make informed decisions for your students for the year.
“Pasco Pathways is talking about all of the different pathways that your students can take to go through our schools, pre-k through 12. That is school choice.
“That’s a chance to learn about the programs, the opportunities that we have.
“And then, the window to apply for school choice, is Jan. 6, 2022 to Jan. 20,2022, which will be here before you know,” Beaudoin said.
The expos provide a tremendous opportunity for parents to find out about their options, Altman agreed.
“They (school district staff) did an outstanding job putting it (expos) together last year,” Altman said.
The notification and acceptance window for the district’s choice program is Feb. 23 to March 4.
For more information, visit the school district’s website and then go to the Pasco Pathways page.
Published October 13, 2021