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School Board

HCPS publishes minutes of School Board meetings after Board approval. Although the online minutes do not include signatures, citizens may arrange to review the official documents by completing a public records request with the Communications Department.

901 E. Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, met for the annual student forum Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 3 p.m., in the School Board Auditorium, 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, with Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, and Board Members Doretha W. Edgecomb, April Griffin, Sally Harris, Carol Kurdell, Melissa Snively, Cindy Stuart, and Susan Valdes present.  Chair S. Valdes presided.


Others present were:


Deputy Superintendents – Jeff Eakins and Cathy Valdes

Assistant Superintendents/Division Chiefs:

      Administration – Lewis Brinson

      Business – Gretchen Saunders

      Facilities – Chris Farkas

      Student Services – Wynne Tye

Communications Officer – Stephen Hegarty

External Communications Assistant Manager - Kristin Waskiewicz

Senior Administrative Secretary (Recording) – Linda Fernandez

Tanly Cabrera, Director Administration

Approximately 175 people were in the audience, including other school district personnel.


Call to Order:  Meeting called to order at 3 p.m.

Moment of Silence and Pledge of Allegiance:  Moment of silence followed by Vice Chair Edgecomb leading in the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States Flag.

Chair S. Valdes gave a brief overview of the student forum that began as a vision of the first female board member, the late Mrs. Cecile Essrig, who was an advocate and passionate supporter of this district.  Mrs. Essrig passed away on June 29, 2012.  She served on the board for 21 years.  Today’s event her creation, originally named "The Tampa/Hillsborough County Youth Council. 

Superintendent Elia let the students know that she may have to leave the meeting early. She is scheduled to be in Tallahassee tomorrow to discuss testing.

Everyone on the dais introduced themselves.

Mrs. Sikes outlined the procedures for the forum and introduced Dr. Lewis Brinson, staff members, and principals present.  Assisted by staffers, Virginia Vasquez, Alison Campbell, and Lashawnda Williams.

Alonso High School

Kelsey Barrett

Megan Wetzel

Kiana Williams


Armwood High School

Karla Cerritos

Allison Dahl

Jordan Griffin

Blake High School

Donte’ Glover

Caroline MyNatt

Juwan Simmons

Bloomingdale High School

Peter Hanhan

Arianna Martinez

Vladimir Zavala



Rashad Anderson

Christian Lee

Brandon High School

Brittany Bing

Kelsey Bone

Jada Rivers

Chamberlain High School

Ashton Alvarez

Deran Baker

Alejandra Rodriguez


Durant High School

Haley Fabrizio

Jasmine Shamberger

East Bay High School

Jeanette Calarco

Jonathan Jean

Ashley Privette

Freedom High School

Devyn Castro-Almeyda

Taylor Emery

Ryan Williamson


Gaither High School

Aura Oviedo

Hunter Tostige

Jordan Trumback


Hillsborough High School

Payton Barnwell

Abi Etchene

Marlee Linnell

Yahaira Onofre


Jefferson High School

Henry Dupree

Ashley Mendez

Johnathan Navarro

King High School

Jared Jolly

JJ O’Malley

Jae Shim

Sydney Wasserman


Lennard High School

Iianna Acosta

Dawan Carter

Sarah Zarkout

Leto High School

Boris Cabrera

Elvin Salcedo

Middleton High School

Jonah Allen

Armani Humbert

Tatiana Larry


Newsome High School

Gabriel Chisano

Sebrenia Coleman

Nicholas Russin

Plant High School

Lanae Fluellen

Lizzie Mayes

Robert Stern

Plant City High School

Vanessa Cortes

Brittany Nesbitt

Huriel Perez


Riverview High School

Natalie Cristobal

Julissa Disla

Sarah Rosario

Robinson High School

Andrea Dent

David Enriquez

Johnathon Slife

Cassandra Vietas


Sickles High School

Eric Ceballos

Cameryn Lackey

Soniya Parikh


Simmons Career Center

Did not attend

South County Career Center

Did not attend

Spoto High School

Cathy Garcia

Emma Shah

Steinbrenner High School

Lauren Langiotti

Karson Merrill

Alexandria Rocco


Strawberry Crest High School

McKenzie Greene

Lucero Rubella’s


Tampa Bay Technical High School

Jessica Morgan

Nikola Salic

Ariana Madder


D. W. Waters Career Center

Jose Molina


Wharton High School

Meagan Bell

Kaitlyn Impolite

Kevin Womack

Citizen Advisory Committee

Meghan Chapalamadugu- Strawberry Crest

Zach Smagowicz - Alonso


Round One Student Questions: 


Alonso (Kelsey Barrett) Is there is an opportunity for students in the future to submit their input on the teacher evaluation and hiring process?


Armwood (Allison Dahl) What internship opportunities does the district plan to provide high school upperclassmen to prepare for the next level?


Blake (Juwan Simmons) There are concerns about the number of suspensions among students of color (African-American and Hispanic), especially male students.  His proposal in order to reduce suspensions we should build student/teacher relationships.  He feels they should have input as it relates to their relationships with students. This will allow students to know what improvements need to be made in order to build relationships and reduce suspensions.  What are your thoughts on this idea?


Bloomingdale(Vladimir Zavala) Teachers have expressed concern about the amount of time being taken away from actual instruction because of testing that is required in class.  How can this be changed in the future?


Bowers/Whitley Career Center (Christian Lee) Could Hart public transportation provide student discounts for high school students who are 18 or older?


Brandon(Brittany Bing) Female students are prohibited from donating blood if they have donated a prior year within the school district until the next time for donation drives approaches.  Each student denied an opportunity to donate blood at the time given will cost a life of an individual who needs blood. Why is this only enforced within Hillsborough County?


Chamberlain (Alejandra Rodriguez) How is the school board involving high school leaders in local decision making?


Durant (Haley Fabrizio) Would the Board consider implementing exam exemptions for all high school students to help improve tardiness, absences, discipline, and grades?


East Bay (Ned Achebe) What is the plan to increase the number of bus drivers?


Freedom (Ryan Williamson) Activity buses for extracurricular events would allow more students to participate. How can we get an activity bus at all high schools, not just a few?


Gaither(Hunter Tostige) What is taken into consideration when allocating funds into school programs, other than counting students and teachers?  Why do some schools get certain sports while another school is denied that same privilege (i.e. Lacrosse or Powder Puff Football)?


Hillsborough (Marlee Linnell) What opportunity does the county have for student involvement in the school system, and how these opportunities foster a healthier learning environment?


Jefferson (Ashley Menendez) What is the district doing to help students in career and technical programs earn more industry certifications and have higher job placement rates?


King (Sydney Wasserman) Since colleges do not look at the grade for elective classes can we not take exams in those classes and only use course work?


Lennard (Iliana Acosta) Why are school clubs limited to one fund raiser per year?


Leto (Boris Cabrera) Can the school board collaborate with HCTA to hold teachers more accountable for updating Edsby on a regular basis? 


Middleton (Armani Humbert) What is the district’s plan on increasing the number of minority students into magnet programs.


Newsome (Nicholas Russin) Has the school board considered adjusting school calendar so that mid-term exams occur before winter break?


Plant (Robert Stern) Under the current format of the grading system a student could receive a 90 and a 90 for both quarters and receive a 70 on the exam and still maintain an "A”; while another student could get two 89s and have no chance for an "A”.  Have you or would you consider changing the format of quarter grading a point system that are then averaged together?


Plant City (Brittany Nesbitt) Is there a possibility for the implementation of technology that would allow students to preload money on a school ID card or school card to pay for goods such as food, library fines, or sporting events?


Riverview (Julisa Disla) It has been said the county will not be offering Advanced Algebra with Financial Application next year.  This is a great class that teaches real life skills such as filing taxes, credit procedures, preventing identity theft, and securing insurances.  Since this class teaches students life skills they will use, why would the county not offer it next year?


Robinson (Johnathon Slife) Our schools have been very accommodating with offering a wide variety of classes for our students to allow them to explore their interests.  One thing we wish we knew more about is the hiring of teachers for these classes, or replacing teachers that no longer teach. In particular, the hiring freeze. Although we see the wisdom behind it, as a method to save resources, often classes are left with under qualified substitutes and students aren’t taught what they need to be taught for months at a time.  Is there any way this issue can be fixed?


Sickles (Soniya Parikh) The district is constantly evolving and changing the county curriculum for courses. Why aren’t the district exams updated more frequently to stay more in line with the course curriculums?


Spoto (Cathy Garcia) What are your thoughts on the benefits of AP courses versus Dual Enrollment with regard to the overall benefit for the college bound student?


Steinbrenner (Karson Merrill) Would it be possible for CTE classes to have longer class periods or back to back periods to enable more hands on learning?


Strawberry Crest (McKenzie Greene) The grading system would be more accurately reflected if we had a plus/minus system like many colleges and universities.  As it stands now, an 80% is calculated the same as an 89%.  Is there any chance this will be changed in the future to more accurately reflect a student’s grade for college recruitment purposes?


Tampa Bay Tech (Nikola Salic) Does the school board intend to re- examine or modify the Senior Exam Policy in regards to excused absences and how they affect a senior’s ability to exempt exams?


D. W. Waters Career (Jose Molina) D. W. Waters is a satellite school and unfortunately we do not get the choices or quality of food as other schools.  What can we do to improve school lunches?


Wharton (Kevin Womack) With the increased amount of online testing, what plans are in place to increase computer funding in order to allow all students to take the test in one sitting rather than over the course of multiple days/weeks?


Citizens Advisory Committee /Strawberry Crest (Meghana Chapalamadugu) In regards to semester exams – why do they have to curve the exams so much?  Is there a way to not curve it as much to possibly more accurately reflect the student’s performance on the semester exam?



Board Comments:

Comments by:  Ms. Edgecomb, Mrs. Griffin, Mrs. Snively, Mrs. Stuart, Mrs. Harris, and Chair S. Valdes.


Round Two Student Questions: 


Alonso (Megan Wetzel) Online classes – Considering that online classes are now a requirement for graduation it sometimes becomes difficult for students to enroll.  What are some suggestions in working with the state to improve the FVS system?


Armwood (Karla Cerritos) Does the district have any plans or interest in implementing a district-wide "peer-mentor” program to help at-risk graduation rates?


Blake (Caroline MyNatt) She represents the Urban Teaching Academy at BHS.  How can busing be improved so that students with separate parents and places of residency can get transportation to each location?


Bloomingdale(Arianna Martinez) How does the county plan to mitigate the effect of athletics on student readiness for exams?


Bowers/Whitley Career Center (Rashad Anderson) Home school and charter school students can play sports at their neighborhood schools. Can career students be given the same opportunity if they meet eligibility?


Brandon(Kelsey Bone) How are you planning on encouraging 11thgraders to take the FSA test seriously considering it is not a graduation requirement?


Chamberlain (Ashton Alvarez) Is it possible to have an SAT prep class as an elective for sophomores and juniors to take to learn study skills for the ACT/SAT?


Durant (Jasmine Shamberger) Would it be possible for the board to purchase approximately 50 iPads for students to check out?  These would be specifically geared to students who take multiple, higher level, AP and IB classes.


East Bay (Sara Riofrio) Could extended school year be mandatory for students who fail classes in order to move on to the next grade level?


Freedom (Devyn Castro-Almeyda) Is there a limit on credits that can be earned outside of school that will affect a student’s rank in class?


Gaither(Jordan Trumbach) In what ways is the new student assessment, the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), more efficient in measuring standards than the FCAT?


Hillsborough (Abigail Etchene) Has there been any comparison done to determine that the evaluation instrument used by other neighboring districts are equitable to the EET rubric used in Hillsborough County School District?


Jefferson (Jonathan Navarro) His question is similar to the CAC question on curving exams.  The district gives very large curves on county midterm and final exams.  This penalizes the students who scored well on their own, and hurts those students with the curve since the final score is not an accurate portrayal of what they learned.  Is the county considering ceasing the use of curves?


King (JJ O’Malley) Exam exemptions has been brought up before but would you consider a system based on merit rather than attendance.  Can the exam exemption policy tied to attendance be looked at possibly removed? If not what about a sliding scale for allowed absences based on the student’s grade in that class?


Lennard (Dawan Carter) As Board Member Edgecomb said earlier in response to a question regarding relationships not only between students and teachers but students and students as well. One of the biggest issues with student and student relationships is support.  Why are we charged, even though we attend the school, when we attend our own sporting events?


Leto (Elvin Salcedo) Currently, in Hillsborough County, high schools run from 7:30 to 3 p.m. (approximately 7.5 hours).  State mandates 6 hrs.  Manatee, Polk, and Pasco county high schools begin at 7:30 a.m. and end ranging from 1:30 to 2 p.m.  Their school grades are within the same range as our grades.  If these schools are able to maintain school grades of "A” and "B”, and they follow the same course guidelines as our county, why are we in class so much longer?


Middleton (Tatiana Larry) Middleton is currently on block schedule.  We feel it is very appropriate for all schools to be on block schedules. This helps the students be more focused and get better grades and better prepared for college.  Wouldn’t it be wire to put other schools on that time schedule?


Newsome (Gabriele Chisano) Why do we not have JV teams for every sport in the county?


Plant (Lanae Fluellen) With the requirement of typing on Florida Standards Assessments, will typing classes be required for all students taking that assessment?


Plant City (Vanessa Cortes) Is there a possibility for Plant City High School as well as other high schools be awarded a collegiate program such as Leto and Armwood?


Riverview (Natalie Cristobal) Most students feel 7 classes are too many to be successful, especially during exams.  Would the county consider going to a 6 class Schedule?


Robinson (David Henriquez) What is the district doing to cultivate diversity in IB?


Sickles (Cameryn Lackey) Studies show that younger children learn foreign languages faster and easier than teenagers.  Has the district done anything to mandate and implement the teaching of foreign languages in elementary schools?


Spoto (Emma Shah) What are your thoughts of creating an atmosphere of acceptance within our growing and diverse community?


Steinbrenner (Laure Langiotti) Could the option of a lunch period as a student’s last period be offered so students would be permitted to leave school earlier to get to jobs, more time to do homework, etc.?


Strawberry Crest (Lucero Ruballos) Being from an IB school but on the traditional side he likes the idea of having a study hall, much like the JA period IB students have. As we enter 11th grade many of us get jobs and work, involved in varsity athletics in our schools, and working on community service hours.  It would be beneficial to have a period during the date to organize, plan, do homework, and study.  This would allow for a more collegiate environment, and we could also meet with our teachers during this time if we were having difficulty in the class.  Is there any chance of allowing for a study hall period for upper classmen?


Tampa Bay Tech (Jessica Morgan) What is the approximate timeline the school board has put in place for new buses to become available for students and when will old buses be phased out?


D. W. Waters Career (Jose Molina) What can the district do to attract teachers and keep them at a career center?


Wharton (Meagan Bell) Within Springboard, there are positive characteristics such as developing higher level vocabulary; however, what can be done to better prepare students for AP level English courses such as critical text analysis and active reading?


Citizens Advisory Committee (Zach Smagowicz/Alonso) Teacher lay-off and decrease school funding.  How has Hillsborough County fared statewide and nationwide?


Board Comments:


Comments by: Chair S. Valdes, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Griffin, Mrs. Snively, Ms. Edgecomb, and Mrs. Stuart


Round Three Student Questions: 


Citizens Advisory Committee (Meghana Chapapamadugu/Strawberry Crest) How is technology incorporated in education and what is the district doing to insure both teachers and students are knowledgeable on how to use it?


Jefferson (Henry Dupree) As a culinary student it is very frustrating that we cannot sell food which we prepare in our classes during certain times including lunches, to our fellow students and teachers.  This is due to the healthy student nutrition movements and a non-competition rule with the cafeteria.  Is there any way the district can review this policy and help the culinary students out?


D. W. Waters (Jose Molina) Our school has several computers that were purchased in 2005. They are slow and take time to boot up. Why is it that no one on a district level takes responsibility for purchasing and replacing academic computers at career centers?


Blake (Stephen Clark) – What effective resources can the district offer to meet the higher rigorous expectations and high state testing demands?


Bowers-Whitley (Rashad Anderson) Could some of the larger traditional high schools provide extra driver education slots for career center students who need drivers education during the summer period?


Bloomingdale (Peter Hanhan) Expending atmosphere in cultural diversity. In recent years, the county’s demographic data collection has progressed to recognize several more minority groups.  However, some distortion still exists and some ethnic groups are underrepresented in the collection of data.  Has the county considered revising the procedure for gathering the information?  For example, giving students and parents the opportunity to discuss how the student can best self-identify, and submitting information virtually, rather than marking "other” as his or her racial identification.


Newsome (Sebrenia Coleman) What does the district think of a bookless classroom? For instance, having classroom sets of iPads of digital class books.


Steinbrenner (not identified) Why do students in AP have to take semester exams in addition to AP exams?


Middleton (Armani Humbert) Many students who are involved in extracurricular activities, find it hard to earn community service requirements needed for graduation. Is there a plan as to how community service opportunities can be implemented during school hours?


Lennard (Sarah Zarkout) There is a policy for tardy and dress code.  Will there ever be a policy for social media?


Robinson (Cassandra Vietas) Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa are known for being welcoming to military families.  In fact, many residents pride themselves on how military friendly this area is.  They are often surprised to learn of the honors point policy in place in Hillsborough County.  It denies a level playing field to military students when they transfer in with honors credits from a school (particularly Dodd’s schools) where a GPA bump was not given for an honors class.  This results in a weighted GPA that is not competitive in this district. Colleges usually reweight the GPA for admissions.  But many scholarships and colleges use class rank as part of their selection process.  Several other districts with high military populations (Okaloosa, Duval, Bay, and Miami-Dade) give the honor weight to all transfer students.  So given the high military population and the high stakes surrounding college admission can you explain to me why this is a policy?


Spoto (Cathy Garcia) – How is money distributed across athletics and performing arts and what is the rationale for these amounts?


Wharton (Kaitlyn Ippolito) – How can the district insure that activity buses arrive on time?


Strawberry Crest (McKenzie Greene) – Being a BYOD school we understand the need for internet filters on the school’s network, however, they are too confining.  There are some great educational websites that are blocked.  Is it possible to have input from students before a site is blocked such as college websites or anything we use academically?


Brandon (Jada Rivers) – Does the school board encourage schools to JROTC program for the promotion of discipline, leadership, teamwork, and encouraging students to become better citizens?


King (Jae Shim) – If a school does not offer an AP course is there any way that a student can they take it at a nearby school rather than having to take it online?


Gaither (Aura Oviedo – Seniors are mandated to take an economics course in high school.  However, the courses do not seem to cover as much as a personal finance class would. Would it be possible to incorporate this class into our district curriculum and if so, what would it take to offer this course as a substitute for Economics?


Plant (Lizzie Mayes) Would the county consider lifting some of the current restrictions on student led fundraisers for clubs and classes?  Specifically allowing the expansion of the number of fundraisers per organization and the types of fundraisers allowed to be conducted.


Sickles (Eric Ceballos) With the new state graduation requirements there are new issues.  On-line classes are less effective and allow more room for cheating among students. Why has one on-line class been made a graduation requirement and why are students allowed to take core and AP classes on-line? 


Chamberlain (Deran Baker) Is it possible to offer additional courses that focus on real world skills such as check writing, credit card use, credit scores, student loans, and renting an apartment.?


Alonso (Kiana Williams) Standardized testing and assessments such as the ELC and FAIR testing not only affect the stress level of students and teachers as well. They are continuously struggling to meet curriculum deadlines.  Are all these tests really necessary and can we focus on one?


Robinson (John Slife) With the new lunch programs we have seen an increase in quality and a decrease in quantity.  When there is clearly enough food for increased portions as shown by daily left overs, what can be done about that? 


Brandon Is there a way for students who have received AP scholar awards or dual enrollment students that have received academic excellence awards – Is there a way for us to be recognized by the district for example an email, or letter from the school board members or superintendent.


Bloomingdale Most students who take AP courses are not guaranteed a collage credit, depending on the score that they achieve on the exam.  However, if you dual enroll at a community college you are guaranteed college credit.  What can the county do to insure that all passing AP scores will guarantee the college credit?


Robinson (David Enriquez) As student populations continue to grow, so has the number of cars that need to park at our school.  Students have resorted to illegally parking in places with no spaces and in handicap sport.  Are there any plans to alleviate these pressures, as it is a danger for our students and a hindrance on our driver’s ed classes?


Armwood Is there any way to help students who speak English as a second language to prep for ACT and SAT?


Gaither Immigration has become an issue in our nation.  Do you believe the ESOL program is prepared for the influx of immigrates or is there a way to make it better for them?  As an international student I had to undergo the program for a week.  From my experience I could tell that it needs some working.


Spoto (Emma Shah) There is a policy on bullying and cyber bulling.  Are there any future plans to continue student awareness of cyber bulling?


Robinson (John Slife) As a Boys State delegate and Dave Henriquez being one of the two delegates to go to Boys Nation.  Is the district doing anything to promote these civic activists kinds of events and programs.


Jefferson (Ashley Mendez) What does the district plan to do to recruit strong STEM teachers because this is important for the future?


Gaither President Obama recently proposed the idea of making college free for those students who do well in school.  Do you think this will be beneficial and sustainable in our county”


Chamberlain In regards to classes required for graduation such as AP Government and AP Macro, they are one semester classes.  Is there any way those classes can become year-long classes?


Comments by:  Ms. Edgecomb, Chair S. Valdes, Mrs. Griffin, Mrs. Snively


Valdes – most of the audience was involved in student government.  Sickles will have a student government meeting.  Thanked Sherry Sikes and the administration division Tanly Cabrera, Joyce Wieland, Virginia Vasquez and Lashawnda Williams. Thanked the principals for taking the time to come to the meeting today.


Adjournment – with no further discussion the student forum was adjourned at 4:46 p.m.  Audio recording on file.

HCPS publishes minutes of School Board meetings after Board approval. Although the online minutes do not include signatures, citizens may arrange to review the official documents by completing a public records request with the Communications Department.

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