Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

East Pasco parents say district erred in school rezoning process

Pasco County parent Doug Wood, left, testifies before Judge D.W. Alexander during an administrative hearing on March 15, 2017 over whether the school district erred in redrawing attendance zones for next school year. Wood's three children were reassigned to new schools during the process. A ruling is expected later this spring. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]

Pasco County parent Doug Wood, left, testifies before Judge D.W. Alexander during an administrative hearing on March 15, 2017 over whether the school district erred in redrawing attendance zones for next school year. Wood's three children were reassigned to new schools during the process. A ruling is expected later this spring. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]

LAND O'LAKES — For the second time in a month, a group of Pasco County parents tried Wednesday to convince a hearing officer that the School Board acted improperly in adopting new school zones for 2017-18.

Six Wesley Chapel families and their lawyer spent nearly seven hours arguing that the board failed to follow state rule-making laws, landing at a decision they considered arbitrary. Their arguments mirrored those made by some Trinity-area parents over a similar rezoning for west Pasco.

Both rezonings, which affect thousands of students, aim to ease crowding at existing campuses and fill open seats in others. A new middle-high school is opening in Wesley Chapel in the fall.

The plaintiffs did not know about the rezoning until well after the process began, attorney Robert Stines argued, and the district did nothing formal to inform them of the rule making until several meetings passed.

"They were not provided a meaningful opportunity to participate," Stines said.

Lawyers for the school district countered that the administration let people know about the early activities through social media and websites, later sending emails and calls in advance of a November parent meeting.

"Many chose not to participate," said School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso.

He also reiterated his position that the rezoning is not rule making, despite language in district policy and documents. The board has separate authority in law to assign students, he said.

That question of whether the district followed rule-making law, or if it had to, will be Judge D.W. Alexander's call.

"In the end, if he says the rules were violated, this is going to be a huge thing for the state of Florida," said plaintiff Doug Wood, whose three children were reassigned to new schools. "I believe we as petitioners made our case."

Parents took the stand first, explaining how the rezoning would negatively impact their families.

They spoke of stress in their homes, and concerns they might not have the same academic opportunities if forced to change schools. They also questioned superintendent Kurt Browning's recommendation of an option that countered his advisory committee, and in their view did not meet the district's rezoning guidelines.

If Browning would have clearly outlined his rationale, parent Larondar Stone said, "I wouldn't be here. … He did not feel he needed to explain to us."

District planning director Chris Williams testified that Browning did explain his recommendation, adding that the superintendent had no obligation to simply accept the committee's proposal.

If Alexander sides with the plaintiffs, the board could have to redo its process.

Without an order, the district is moving ahead with the new boundaries.

A ruling is expected this spring.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

East Pasco parents say district erred in school rezoning process 03/16/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.