Hutch 4 Pasco Schools 5

REVIEW: Save Me a Seat, Sarah Weeks

I will be doing novel reviews every Friday. If the novel sounds interesting to you, go to the library on the weekend and start reading. I drive far too much, and have found audiobooks helps me maintain my sanity in traffic. If you have a book you’ve been wanting to read, let me know. I’ll add it my audiobooks if I can and then review it for you.


Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks.

I downloaded this audiobook because I thought it was an education-based, nonfiction book. After listening to Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s autobiographies (which are amazing as audiobooks!), I was on the hunt for stories based in reality. Save Me a Seat is NOT nonfiction, but still absolutely adorable and amazing for young kids.

Save Me a Sit focuses on two boys in the 5th grade. Joe appears to have a learning disability and gets picked on by the class clown. Ravi is new to his class, new to America, and thinks the class clown can be his best friend. As they go through the challenges of starting fifth grade, they realize that first impressions can be misleading and you can’t really know a person unless you get to know them. It’s a wonderful story of friendship, growing up, appreciating your roots, and finding yourself at a young age.

There are studies that show reading novels helps develop empathy. This is a prime example of showing our children how to better relate to others.

Happy reading!

Failing Faster


This video, while aimed at video game designers, is an important lesson for children and adults alike.

We must be open to the ideas of others, and open to feedback on ideas of our own. Without creating a space for growth, everything we do will wither away in our dreams or be chained down by our own ambitions and desires. Collaboration helps creativity flow and makes realities out of dreams.

I encourage everyone to use this mantra at some point this week. Look at your failures as an opportunity, and push yourself to hit those failures sooner, so you can recover from them faster. Like mediocre cliches, the truth behind them can power you through. So let’s break some eggs, people.

Dealing with PTSD and Trauma

Today’s shooting in Broward was a tragedy. And while it is easy to get political about gun rights when school shootings happen. We must remember who is affected most by these incidents: the students, teachers, and families at those schools.

At a meeting recently, I was able to learn about TF-CBT, which is trauma focused therapy. For those students, teachers, and families in Broward affected by the shooting, and other families and teachers that are traumatized by this senseless act, remember to care for yourselves in this time. We say that self care is important on a regular basis. Caring for yourself and your family as you navigate life after trauma is just as important. Give yourself time to heal. Heal with each other. And seek out resources that are there to help you.

Let Me Teach

This post is incredibly late tonight because I got to spend my evening at an amazing Campaign Kick Off Fundraiser for Kelly Smith. While there, I spoke with a substitute teacher in Pasco. We talked about the attack on teachers.

When I first became a teacher, I remember the other teachers in my magnet program telling me that it only started to get easy during their third year. They told me it would take until my third year before I’d be really confident. By then I’d have enough lesson plans to make planning smoother, so I would be adding to my collection instead of building from scratch.

Then my third year came. We really delved into our new textbooks. We embraced our teacher evaluation system. We had more teacher accountability. And I was drowning. I turned to those teachers that told me this was when it would start to get easier. I heard from multiple teachers that this was their hardest year. 10 years, 15 years, and sometimes more, and all were saying this year was their hardest.

This video focuses on mandated testing, but the crush of creativity comes from everything that takes away teachers’ autonomy: standards and procedures that say that teachers went to college but came out without enough education. Let’s treat our teachers with respect and let them inspire our students.

To Charter or Not to Charter…

As a teacher, there were challenges I saw in how we educate our students. Our classes were too large, especially classes designed for students who struggle like Intensive Reading, our teachers were unable to collaborate, and our lessons were not cohesive.
At one point in my four years of teaching, I looked into the process for opening a charter school. It had been a dream of mine to open a school for students that I could run to focus on actual student needs. We wouldn’t be controlled by transportation or maximizing our teachers. We could make a school that would be a model for the country. I actually drew a picture of the school senior year and wanted to run it with a friend.

I realize now that this would have had the same issue that I always had while teaching. It just doesn’t do enough. Charter schools run by educators is an awesome concept, but it forgets an important detail. Why are these educators having to make charter schools in the first place? Our district and our school board needs to be open to the ideas of its educators about the issues directly impacting their students.

Charter schools run by corporations should be private schools – since they are essentially private businesses. Why are we taking money from public schools to give to these mock private schools? I’ll delve more into the HOPE bill later in the week to discuss more of how this harms our students.

Take the poll on twitter. Do you have your student educated by public, private, charter, or home school? 

Financial Literacy for our Teens

While out shopping, I met two teenage boys who were discussing doing their taxes while stocking shelves. I walked up right when they were talking about it, and the first boy was suggesting that the second boy use the same tax person his family used. The first boy mentioned how this person would do his taxes for him. The second boy was wanting to do his taxes on his own for the first time to really benefit from them, and that he had no idea what to do with them.

I told both of these boys that as long as they didn’t have major assets, which most teenagers don’t, they could easily do their taxes by themselves using Turbo Tax or HR Block. I explained that we only have to do federal income tax, which is free through most online tax providers. I even told them that HR Block will even walk you through it in person for free, as I had done that in college when I had trouble understanding why my tax refund went down as I added more employment.

These boys could not be far out of high school, if out at all. Why are we not teaching students basic financial literacy? As employees of a retail business likely only making minimum wage or slightly above it, they are in the enormous portion of our society that would not want to spend what little bit of their tax refund they get on someone else preparing it for them, especially when they can do it for free. This could be a single day activity for students between February and April 15th, when they would have access to their W2 forms, and could even be done in a computer lab so students could file their taxes right there together.

In our ever-changing and ever-progressing society, technology is a must. Our students should not be facing the realities of the world without proper preparation from their schools. Let us defend our students’ rights by preparing them to be functioning adults.

Enrollment at Wendell Krinn Technical High School

As of January 16th, the Wendell Krinn Technical High School had received about 560 applications, according to the Pasco County School Board. Their projected enrollment is 600 students.

As a teacher that worked in a magnet program, you will always receive more applications than you can take, because students may not qualify due to entrance requirements, students may not choose to go to the school after being accepted, and student numbers may have to be balanced due to different factors.

While Pasco County Schools needs a technical school, and hopefully many magnet schools in the future to give our students options with their education in the public education system, taking over an existing school creates more problems. Teachers will have to find new jobs as they are pushed out, because they may not have the necessary requirements to teach at a technical school or will be downsized in their departments because the school will start with a smaller pool of students. New teachers will have to develop curriculum as they will be teaching classes never taught before in Pasco public schools, and may not have had the time to create their curricula.

Ridgewood HS and its unsure students and parents.

At the Pasco County School Board meeting that took place on January 16th, three parents spoke out about the decision to turn Ridgewood HS into a technical school and the rezoning of students that would result from the decision.

One parent expressed concern about the loss of the athletics department, as their child had been involved in athletics while at Ridgewood and would not be able to stay there for athletics in their final year. This parent was also concerned that the School Board has yet to determine how diplomas will work and if her child will be able to get a diploma there.

Another parent was concerned about not knowing at this point where their child would be going in the following year as rezoning has not been finalized. The School Board voted, with opposition from Member Luikart, to rezone students from Ridgewood. Luikart stated that while he didn’t agree with the decision, it was at the point where students needed to know where they were going to school for the next school year.

The last parent expressed concern that the last year’s rezoning decision was just determined to be voided by the court system. With this issue in mind, the School Board may face more opposition with their rezoning, even though they are doing it differently than last year. The court decision turned on the lack of visibility in the School Board’s process due to the Sunshine Law.

The School Board is made up of elected public servants. It is their job not only to listen to the parents, teachers, and students of Pasco County in their decision making, but to keep the public informed on their decisions. As Pasco grows, we must start making better decisions for our students so they are not overcrowded, so they are not moved every year because the schools we are moving them to are already full, and so our students can have a voice in their educational decisions.

Rezoning is undone, or is it?


Our School Board’s attempt last year to rezone students was just deemed void. This causes two problems. The first problem directly affects our students. They may now be forced to move to the school they were previously zoned to, which would cause them to be uprooted in the middle of the school year and cause issues with class size for our students and our teachers. The article above states that Kurt Browning, our superintendent, can reassign them back to the school they are currently at. This would prevent the students from feeling disrupted in the middle of the school year by making the court decision pointless.

The second problem this brings up is current plans to rezone. Again. One claim in the article is that the School Board did not keep the decision open to the community, which is what the Sunshine Law is meant to protect. During the last School Board meeting, when two fathers defended their children’s needs to not be moved to another school for a second year in a row, the microphones were not working. This made it very difficult for those in the crowd, myself included, to hear the parents. I cannot imagine how the School Board members managed to hear the parents well enough. Once the discussion of the rezoning was over, the microphones came on within the first couple of sentences of the next speaker, just in time to hear all of the achievements of our students in Pasco. While I would like to believe this was done unintentionally and was a coincidence of the technology, I also believe we need to maintain more open communications with the community. Why were there not backup microphones? Why was there not a longer attempt to bring the microphones up before starting the meeting?

Another issue with the rezoning is the fact that rezoning will not solve our problems of overcrowding in our schools. As I’ve mentioned before, we have essentially only 4 elementary and 4 middle schools that are open during school choice. The rest are frozen due to capacity, meaning they would not be able to take any more students, or frozen due to class size, meaning they would only be able to take students for certain grade levels as they pack the classrooms. We the immense developing of neighborhoods, especially in central and east Pasco, we are bringing more children to our schools. I averaged the capacity percentages of our schools. As a whole, Pasco Elementary Schools are at 91.6% capacity, Pasco Middle Schools at 90% capacity, and Pasco High Schools at 96.5% capacity. At this rate, we already have no more space in our schools. We as a county have also chosen to turn one of our existing schools into a technical school. While this might be a nice option for our students, it is removing a location to spread our students around, as we may end up having fewer enrollees in the technical school than there are currently in it as a traditional school. Where will those remaining students go?

It’s time. We must start building schools for our growing population now, so that we’re prepared when it starts to grow. We must start raising our teacher pay to be on par with our surrounding counties, so teachers will live here and teach here instead of living here and teaching in a county where they can get just enough more money to be drawn away.


Navigating the School Application Process

Navigating the School Application Process

While we were out canvassing in Holiday, a concerned parent said she just didn’t know how to enroll her son in middle school or which school she should choose. I promised her I would try to navigate the system for her.

The short version: There are registration requirements. The magnet school window (for 1 elementary school and 3 middle schools) is Dec 4-Jan 12. The School Choice window (which is extremely limited) is Feb 1-Mar 1. There appear to be no requirements to get into a magnet program, but there is priority treatment for certain students.

Here’s my understanding of how to apply:

Registration Requirements

This webpage lists registration requirements Your child can be reassigned if you give inaccurate information or if you fail to update. This page also lists all of the requirements based on your application status (new to Pasco public schools or entering Kindergarten/Previously enrolled in Pasco public or Florida public or Florida private schools/Homeless students).

Magnet Programs

Magnet Program options are available for elementary (ES) and middle school (MS) only. There is one elementary school option and three middle school options. The application period is December 4, 2017-January 12, 2018.

Sanders Memorial STEAM ES is a lottery based system where priority is only given to students who live very close to the school, have a sibling already accepted and attending, have a parent working at a feeder school, are zoned for an overcrowded school, or get preference under Florida law. All of that information was gathered from this page:

Bayonet Point STEM MS, Centennial STEM MS, and Pine View IB MS are middle school options. These also follow a lottery process and priority is given to students who attend a magnet theme that is offered at the next level of promotion (I’ll look into this), have an accepted and attending sibling, have a parent working for a feeder school, are zoned for an overcrowded school, or are given preference under Florida law. That information was gathered from this page:

School Choice

School Choice options (if you want your student to go to a school that is not their assigned school) is available through this webpage. School choice enrollment is from February 1-March 1, 2018. You cannot submit early. This leaves the magnet school options open before that time so parents can make a decision before submitting for school choice. School choice is limited by class size. Applications must be for a single student for a single school submitted electronically.

Frozen – No Longer Accepting Students – or Specific Grades Only

Here is the link for schools that cannot accept students (frozen capacity) and schools that can only accept for specific grades (frozen for class size).  

Here is a breakdown of that information: Schools that cannot be approved are:


Elementary: Anclote, Chasco, Connerton, Cox, Cypress, Double Branch, Dr Mary Giella, Hudson, Longleaf, New River, Oakstead, Odessa, Pine View, Sand Pine, Seven Oaks, Shady Hills, Taylor, Trinity, Veterans, Wesley Chapel, West Zephyrhills, Woodland

Middle: Gulf, Pasco, Pine View, Rushe, Seven Springs, Smith

High: Land O’Lakes, Mitchell, Pasco, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills.

Schools that can only be approved for certain grades:


Elementary: Bexley, Calusa, Centennial, Cotee River, Denham Oaks, Fox Hollow, Gulf Highlands, Gulf Trace, Gulfside, Lacoochee, Lake Myrtle, Locke, Marlowe, Northwest, Pasco, Quail Hollow, Richey, San Antonio, Schrader, Seven Springs, Trinity Oaks, Wiregrass

Middle: Crews Lake, Cypress Creek, Long, River Ridge, Stewart, Weightman

High: Anclote, Cypress Creek, Fivay, Gulf, Hudson, Ridgewood.