Parents of children at Town ‘N’ Country’s Dickenson Elementary School had a lot to cheer about Tuesday night as the Hillsborough County School Board voted 6 to 1 to keep their kids’ school operating next year with no changes.

But the parents of some 1000 other children in the county left the meeting shaking their heads in disbelief as they found out their kids will be reassigned to other elementary schools come August.

Stan Davis reports.

Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent, MaryEllen Elia, formerly presented her plan to the Board Tuesday for large migrations of students between elementary schools in northwest Hillsborough County.

About 250 parents showed-up to express their displeasure with it. 89 people spoke to the Board, mostly to plead on behalf of their children.

Some, though, were also just plain angry with Elia’s rushed proposals to move 1500 kids with little or no notification to members of the affected communities.

Linda MacArthur, whose son is in the 2nd Grade at Westchase, was close to furious…

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[Actuality 1- Linda MacArthur- …�]

Westchase parents were well-organized.

After parents of the affected students disclosed their bad news to other members of the community, a new association geared-up quickly, Westchase United.

They launched a website, produced a “Talking Points� memo, lobbied Board members by email and telephone, and even bussed parents to Tuesday evening’s meeting.

Daryll Manning is President of the Westchase Community Association.

He says the Board has been an excellent partner in drawing-up plans for new classroom construction concurrent with residential development, but their process for school boundary re-shaping is an entirely different story…

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[Actuality 2- Daryll Manning- “…we want to be part of the process… and we’re not going away!�]

But Westchase was not the only community facing large transfers of its children to other schools.

Dickenson Elementary School was on the docket to be closed and “repurposed� as a Success Academy, where troubled students in the county could volunteer for non-traditional classes.

That meant that every one of Dickenson’s 585 kids were going to be sent to another school—Town ‘N’ Country Elementary –about a mile away—a move that would then send 100 current Town ‘N’ Country students to Morgan Woods.

Francisco Vera has a son in Kindergarten at Town ‘N’ Country…

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[Actuality 3- Francisco Vera- “… Please reconsider… thank you�]

And Mabel Martinez has three kids at Dickenson, who’ve already gone through relocation before…

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[Actuality 4- Mabel Martinez— {en Espagnol} “…but because of your decision.�]

WMNF spoke with Roberta Smallwood—a Dickenson parent –to get her ideas on why that school had been selected for “repurposing�…

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[Actuality 5- Roberta Smallwood #1— [“… we feel the reason they have targeted us is…versus any of the other schools.�]

Smallwood also explained her take on Elia’s proposals…

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[Actuality 6- Roberta Smallwood #2— [“… we are an A-rated school…and bringing them to us.�]

The Board listened to parents—and even some teachers –for over three hours, and then they began their debate.

One big problem they had to wrestle with was a kind of domino effect.

If one community was appeased, how would that affect the student populations in another.

Board member Carol Kurdell cautioned that if Elia’s proposals were tabled for further consideration—with input from parents –the problems faced by the school district were just going to get worse…

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[Actuality 7- Carol Kurdell— [“I’ve been through this before… or somebody’s gonna do this to us.�

Acting on a motion put forward by Susan Valdes and Jennifer Faliero to exempt Dickenson from any of Elia’s proposals, Board Chair Carolyn Bricklemyr called for a voter…

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[Actuality 8- Dickenson vote— [“… 6 yes and 1 no.�]

The lone dissenter was Carol Kurdell.

The mood in the room lifted, even as the Board continued to debate and discuss Kurdell’s caution.

Finally, Bricklemyr called for the up and down vote: Shall the Board accept Elia’s plan as amended, or not?

As Bricklemyr announced the results, parents could not believe what they were hearing.

The Board had decided by a vote of 5 to 2 that the Elia plan would be put into action following the conclusion of the current term.

Only Valdes and Faliero stood with the parents.

And come August, 1000-plus Kindergarten through Fifth-graders were going to be attending different schools.

For WMNF, I’m Stan Davis

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