Board needs to reverse decision to admit out-of-county students
Hernando TodayThe issues: School board votes to readmit 12 more out-of-county students who fraudulently attended Nature Coast Technical High School.
Published: August 18, 2009
Published: August 18, 2009
Our opinion: Who needs to follow the rules? The Hernando County School Board.
The school board's 3 to 2 vote Monday to allow 12 out-of-county students to return to Nature Coast Technical High School was a huge mistake. It was a mistake earlier this year to allow three seniors to return.
The 4 to 1 vote to allow an additional 65 Hernando County students on the waiting list to attend the school was yet another flawed move - especially when you consider that there really are about 120 Hernando County students on that waiting list.
Another school board oops.
While the second vote may have been a means to appease those students who had been slighted by the flawed system, it will only serve to water down the education that all Nature Coast students receive this coming school year at what will now be an overcrowded magnet school.
And, heck, if 137 more students, including 15 who live out-of-county, can attend Nature Coast with the board's blessing, then any Hernando County student who wants to go to the magnet school should be admitted upon request.
Where they'll put all of them is anyone's guess, but apparently that's somebody else's problem - namely the administrators and educators at the school.
What was our school board thinking?
By readmitting out-of-county students who should never have been allowed to attend the school in the first place, the floodgates are now open for local students to attend the school.
How did the board get into this mess in the first place?
After it was revealed late last school year that 20 out-of-county students, mostly from Pasco, had been attending the school, the board decided that all but the three returning seniors could return to the school. The other 12 were out of luck.
Board policy prohibits out-of-county students from attending magnet schools. That's the rule. Extra Hernando County tax dollars are spent to support our magnet schools. By allowing the out-of-county students to return to Nature Coast, the board is violating its own written policy - one that must be enforced to ensure fairness among those Hernando County students who are not admitted to the special school.
But who needs rules, anyway?
Three board members folded by placating two parents who sued the school district so their out-of-county children could continue to attend Nature Coast.
It was a bluff.
How could the court system rule in the parents' favor? The rules are in writing and parents sign forms that state the students must live in Hernando County. The parents know where they live. They knew they were violating the school district's policy. Nature Coast administrators should have caught the bogus admissions. They didn't. The parents didn't care because they knew that nothing would come of it, that other out-of-county students had graduated from Nature Coast.
The jig was up once the violations became public in Hernando Today.
Even if you don't know the speed limit is 35 mph and you're driving 50 mph, you still get a ticket if an officer stops you. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The parents were operating as if there would never be a cop to pull them over.
The school district should have threatened to countersue the parents for the costs associated with sending their children to a magnet school as well as attorney fees. The parents signed papers noting the child must live in Hernando County.
Now that the board has opened the floodgates, what about all the students of previous years who applied to Nature Coast but were denied, put on a waiting list and gave up trying to get into the school? Do those students also now get to go to Nature Coast?
How many dozens, hundreds, more would that be?
Now we learn that the school district may have to transfer two additional teachers and one day hire an assistant principal to handle the additional students. That is a huge cost at taxpayers' expense just to add a dozen out-of-county students that shouldn't be at the school in the first place.
No, the board made a bad decision Monday. They need to follow the policies and rules they set. If someone wants to sue, board members need to stand firm and let the courts decide.
Bowing to an emotional lawsuit that would likely be thrown out of court has only shown that when some parents don't get their way with the Hernando County School District, all they have to do is sue.
Throwing out the rules because a couple people are trying to strong-arm the school district is not the kind of message we should send to Hernando County students, much less the taxpayers.
Board members are elected leaders who should stand up for what's right for Hernando County, its students and taxpayers, and make tough decisions when called upon.
To their credit, Diane Bonfield and Sandra Nicholson got it right.
Now that the other three board members have created a mess, it's their responsibility to clean it up.
Another, more responsible vote is in order, and it needs to be accomplished posthaste.