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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 29, 2019

The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, met for the annual student forum Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at 2 p.m., in the School Board Auditorium, 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, with Superintendent Jeff Eakins, and Board Members Steve Cona, Lynn Gray, Stacy Hahn, Karen Perez, and Melissa Snively present.  Chair Shamburger presided.

Absent: Cindy Stuart

Others present were:

Deputy Superintendent Administration:  Van Ayres

Chief of Schools:  Harrison Peters

Chiefs/Assistant Superintendents:

Chief Business Officer: Gretchen Saunders

Chief HR Officer: Marie Whelan

USF Intern: Nathaniel Sweet

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

Call to Order:  Meeting called to order at 2 p.m.

Dr. Michelle Fitzgerald served as facilitator and introduced Board Chair Tamara Shamburger.

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

Chair Shamburger gave a brief overview of the student forum that began over 30 years ago.  It was initiated by the first female board member, the late Mrs. Cecile Essrig, who was an advocate and passionate supporter of this district. Mrs. Essrig served on the Hillsborough County School Board for 21 years. Each board member introduced themselves and identified their district. Superintendent Eakins introduced himself.

Dr. Fitzgerald outlined the procedures for the forum and introduced Mr. Harrison Peters, Chief of Schools, staff members, and principals present.

Alonso High School

Molly O’Donnell

Madison Mullins

Levian Hall


Armwood High School

Khadesha Galloway

Ja’Quasia Dawkins

Elisabell Velazquez


Blake High School

Madison Potantus

Charlea Bing


Bloomingdale High School

Morgan Guarisco

La’Tatiana Beasley

Yousef Ramahi

Bowers/Whitley Career Center

James Bettis

Naomi Sheppard


Brandon High School

Tarnim Wahib

Trinity Johnson

Aniya Prim

Chamberlain High School

Tyler Riddell

Darien Baker

Erika Rivera


Durant High School

Andrea Ramos

Abigail Hernandez


East Bay High School

Demetra Johnson

Sophia Kotopka

Logan Hess


Freedom High School

Cathryn Boga

Destiny Kimbrough

Elois Hannah

Gaither High School

Bridget Heslin

Alex Sterns

Genna Green


Hillsborough High School

William Andrews

Terence Doston



Jefferson High School

Franshaira Ramirez

Nicholas Torres

Lorenzo Ford


King High School

Noah King IB Student

Sydnee Vance & Anthony Ware

Faith Twinamaani IB Student


Lennard High School

Iris Mojica

Reece Gardner

Elijah Seay


Leto High School

Faith Pinamang

Eimy Castro

Christian Suarez


Middleton High School

Manu Gummaraju

Demetris Harris

Jaylin Cole


Newsome High School

Audrey Hill

Nikolas Davis

Kenya Smith

Plant High School

Lena Diasti

Hunter Owens

Jack Schifino


Plant City High School

Tyreke Harrison

MacKenzie Steele

Laura Treche


Riverview High School

Nicholas Filipek

Jake Massena

Andres Prieto


Robinson High School

Tiffany Krueger

Joshua Hall-Gomez

Abagail Patterson &

Anders McLennan

Sickles High School

Adria Darr

Tatum Wymer

Donald Williams

South County Career Center

Madison Loughlin

Billy Watson

Kyla Scrivens

Spoto High School

Derek Dutten

Luz Rosario

Bryce Johnson

Steinbrenner High School

Christian Hunte

Emily Ansel

Sunil Menezes

Strawberry Crest High School

Lori Ann James

Lexi Butler

Emily Scimeca

Tampa Bay Tech

Darley Desormo

Brianna Layton

Anjali Sanichara

D. W. Waters Career Center

Ronald Brown

Jasmine Hall


Wharton High School

Devyn Kettner

Felicity McLeod

Shantell Mullings

Citizen Advisory Committee

Adam Rowan – King High School

Jamie Koopman – Wharton High School


Round One Student Questions: 

Alonso (Molly O’Donnell) Grade 12

Most of our classes have many more than 25 students in them.  With the challenges many of our students face, large classes negatively impact our academic success, graduation rate, and don’t help to close the achievement gap in our very diverse high school.  What can be done about that?

Armwood (Khadesha Galloway) Grade 12

Dual enrollment and Career Tech opportunities have been beneficial to many students at Armwood.  Witnessing this…many of us see the need to provide more guidance and support to direct more students to these opportunities.  How can the district create more guaranteed access to these programs for every student?

Blake (Madison Potantus) Grade 12

Since the half penny sales tax has been approved, what changes can we see in schools?  Whether it be AC or remodels.

Bloomingdale (La’Tatiana Beasley) Grade 10

How is the school budget determined on items such as textbooks, workbooks, repairs, and improvements?

Bowers/Whitley (James Bettis) Grade 11

Many students can’t afford school lunch how can it be free to all those that can’t afford school lunch?

Brandon (Tarnim Wahib) Grade 12

Is the School Board actively pursuing the purchase of weapon detecting technology for daily monitoring in high schools?  Will the School Board investigate grant opportunities to fund this needed technology?

Chamberlain (Tyler Riddell) Grade 12

Student engagement needs to improve. I respond best when I have a positive relationship with my teachers. How can we assure that all teachers build stronger relationships with their students?

Durant (Abigail Hernandez) Grade 12

Since there are multiple ways to earn high school credits now, would the Board consider allowing some schools to choose Block Scheduling that mirrors IB and Magnet Schools?

East Bay (Demetra Johnson) Grade 12

With the school food service restrictions lifted by the current president, will dietary restrictions in vending machines and school food service be lifted or modified to allow previously restricted food/beverages?

Freedom (Cathryn Boga) Grade 12

High school students are at an age that mental health awareness must be a priority in schools. How will the school district increase mental health resources to spread awareness to high school students who struggle to balance their mental health with extracurricular activities and academics?

Gaither (Alex Sterns) Grade 12

How do you propose to place higher educational values on vocational/technical jobs, if minimal courses are offered to students who are not interested in attending either a two-year or four-year college?

Hillsborough (Terence Doston) Grade 11

Why are there not as many opportunities for educational class field trips in high school?

Jefferson (Nicholas Torres) Grade 12

Several high schools in the district have to pay to play sports programs, such as lacrosse, crew, hockey, etc. In title 1 schools, this is a hardship for students to have access to play due to the monies required to play. Has the district considered possible options to remove the financial barriers across all high schools for the pay to play sports, thereby opening up more opportunities for students to have access to diverse sports and possible chances for a wider range of college scholarships?

King (Anthony Ware) Grade 12

As a lot of us who are seniors are expected to graduate, the skill set needed to succeed as an adult seems to be inadequate when it comes to our finances. Will the school board consider adding a personal finance class for students?

Lennard (Iris Mojica) Grade 12

The state of Florida is consider mandating that teachers be allowed to carry weapons on campus.  Have you considered how that mandate would be implemented in our schools?

Leto (Faith Pinamang) Grade 11

Bussing continues to be an issue for many of the schools in our district. Students are missing valuable class time due to late busses, while others miss school completely because busses are missing stops. What is being done to remedy our transportation issues?

Middleton (Manu Gummaraju) Grade 12

The GPA system seems to give students the opportunity to boost their GPA by taking online courses that lack in integrity. This results in students having obnoxious GPAs while lusting for points, online classes with answers easily accessible through a simple internet search and a devalued education system. Is there something we can do to increase the thirst for real knowledge and allow GPAs to reflect the work that a student actually puts in learning and studying?

Newsome (Audrey Hill) Grade 12

The recent mass shootings, especially in schools, have sparked fear in our communities. What measures, if any, has the district proposed to increase security within each school?

Plant (Benjamin Davis) Grade 12

Are there any rules that can be put in place that can regulate the teacher’s political views in the classroom? 

Plant City (Kyle Hamilton) Grade 11

So many students are opting to leave school for Dual Enrollment and Virtual classes which are often less rigorous and challenging than AP Classes.  The number of students that leave campus early daily also impacts school spirit. Has there been any thought given to limiting the classes students can take off campus that contribute to the student’s overall GPA? 

 Riverview (Eric Scott) Grade 12

Will the high school start times remain the same for next year?

Robinson (Joshua Hall-Gomez) Grade 11

What policies are in place to ensure students with significant cognitive disabilities are receiving the appropriate education and what resources are available for opportunities after High School?

Sickles (Tatum Wymer) Grade 12

How can we be more effective advocates for our public schools with our state legislators?

South County Career Center (Madison Loughlin) Grade 12

How can we get more careers at our center other than mechanics and agriculture, such as nursing, construction and cosmetology?

Spoto (Derek Dutten) Grade 12

The time change for high schools was to create solutions for transportation, but many of my classmates arrive on late buses.  What steps are being discussed to improve this?

Steinbrenner (Emily Ansel) Grade 12

Is there the possibility of changing the incentive for senior exam exemptions for second semester by extending the amount of days that can be missed or by counting only unexcused absences?  Sometimes students become ill or have surgery, and counting those excused days for the medical reasons seems unfair.

Strawberry Crest (Lexi Butler) Grade 12

We applaud the way the county is now evaluating teachers, but we feel there should be student input on a teacher’s evaluation.  As high school students, we feel we are mature enough to have input on a teacher’s performance.  After all, we are in the class daily with the teachers…and many colleges and universities depended upon student input to determine tenure for professors.  Has there been any discussion to having a student input section on the teacher’s evaluation in the future?

Tampa Bay Tech (Darley Desormo) Grade 12

This year students will not get the opportunity to have a graduation rehearsal due to time constraints of AP, IB and State Exam dates as well as other factors we may not be aware of.  Years ago graduation was held at both the USF Sundome and the Florida State Fairgrounds.  Why do we no longer host it at both locations and will we ever return to this two location set up to allow for appropriate rehearsal time?

D. W. Waters Career (Ronald Brown) Grade 12

What is the district’s plan to address the antiquated equipment on school campuses like Waters where more than half of the school day is spent on the computer?

Wharton (Devyn Kettner) Grade 12

As part of our school’s leadership, we try to have activities that include our entire student body. Sometimes these activities include after school, evening or Saturday events.  What we realized over the four years is how difficult and unfair it is to students who live so far away.  We have students that ride a bus or drive over 45 minutes to get to school.  They will not or cannot attend after school activities.  What also was realized is that a lot of times, those same students cannot participate in sports, music, or academic activities.  Is there something that can be done to help the situation?  We have one activity bus for athletes only.

Citizens Advisory Committee (Jamie Koopman)

Can there be more variety of programs in our schools so we have an idea when we do go to college what we would like to study, instead of going to college without a clue.

Board Comments:

Comments by Member Gray, Cona, Hahn, Perez, Vice Chair Snively, Chair Shamburger and Superintendent Eakins


Round Two Student Questions: 

Alonso (Levian Hall) Grade 11

Despite the presence of law enforcement, administrators, and teachers throughout the day, the design of our campus cannot prevent bad people from doing bad things.  Some of our students still genuinely fear for their safety.  What plans are in place to make our campus safer? 

Armwood (Elisabell Velazquez) Grade 12

With on-line courses becoming a graduation requirement and almost a necessity to every high school student; not every high school student has equal access.  Can schools provide guaranteed "in house” class periods dedicated to on-line coursework?

Blake (Charlea Bing) Grade 11

Since students protested teacher’s wages, what action does the district plan on taking to help with that particular issue?

Bloomingdale (Morgan Guarisco) Grade 11

What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of the new school hours?

Bowers/Whitley (Naomi Sheppard) Grade 11

Can an agreement be made with Hartline Bus Transportation for students to receive FREE bus passes to help with attendance?

Brandon (Trinity Johnson) Grade 12

Now that the USDA has relaxed school lunch rules, will the School Board permit high schools to have more outside food options for lunch such as Chick-fil-A or popular brand?

Chamberlain (Darien Baker) Grade 12

I come from a family of educators that love their job and students but sometimes feel unappreciated. How does the board plan to address teacher’s salaries and parental involvement?

Durant (Andrea Ramos) Grade 12

Since the ½ cent sales tax was approved, will this allow the Board to use its budget monies to provide raises for employees?

East Bay (Sophia Kotopka) Grade 11

In an effort to make traditional schools more competitive with magnet and/or charter schools, how are programs/sports assigned to schools?  For example, magnet programs and sports such as Lacrosse?

Freedom (Destiny Kimbrough) Grade 12

Will the district revisit the bathroom policies for transgender students?

Gaither (Bridget Heslin) Grade 12

What factors were taken into consideration when assessing the geographical boundaries for bus routes, and how are you able to justify the determination as to whether or not a student qualifies for bus transportation?

Hillsborough (William Andrews) Grade 12

Why can’t all public schools offer classes based on career paths of students?

Jefferson (Franshaira Ramirez) Grade 12

The Florida Association of Student Councils is an organization that brings together middle and high schools in Florida to bring growth in student leadership development and participation in student activities and civic affairs. As of now only a few high schools in HCPS collaborate with this wonderful organization. Has the district considered promoting a relationship with this organization among all high schools so as to greatly benefit more students and thereby opening doors to networking opportunities, scholarship possibilities, and more?

King (Faith Twinamaani IB) Grade 12

How is Hillsborough County trying to improve high school readiness for students entering 9thgrade?

Lennard (Reece Gardner) Grade 11

Is it possible for other high schools to incorporate drama classes into their master schedule for their ESE students as we do at Lennard so all ESE students have the same opportunity?

Leto (Eimy Castro) Grand 11

This year, our district required students to complete the free and reduced lunch forms online, as opposed to the paper forms that were distributed in years past. Access to technology is an issue for many of the students who qualify for these services, making the application process more stressful and time-consuming for parents. How can we better serve our students in need?

Middleton (Demetris Harris) Grade 10

School culture takes years to create and it can be extremely difficult with a high turnover rate of administration. Is there a way that administration can be locked into a minimum number of years contract with high schools so that students have the chance to form meaningful relationships with their admin and for full and thorough implementation of programs and initiatives?

Newsome (Nikolas Davis) Grade 12

Throughout the school year the goal is to do well academically so one can receive the highest grade possible. Since this is the case, why is there such a drastic curve on semester exams? Such as a student’s raw score is a "D” and after the curve they receive a "B”. Shouldn’t there be a greater regulation on how great the curve should be because essentially the curve gives a passing or above average grade to students who don’t have a true grasp on the curriculum.

Plant (Alexis Ashby) Grade 12

Why is the pay so low for a tech specialist resulting in not being able to fill the position by a qualified person, when technology is so important?

Plant City (Calvin "CJ” Callins) Grade 12

How can we expand the funding and accessibility of grants for the TV Production and Arts programs in our schools that require expensive equipment that requires updating so frequently?

Riverview (Luis Colon) Grade 11

When will the AC repairs begin at school?

Robinson (Abagail Patterson) Grade 11

For the past three years, school started on the same date, August 10.  What are the determining factors when considering the school’s start date?  Why did school start on a Friday, August 10, 2018?

Sickles (Adria Darr) Grade 12

How can we ensure that our schools are safe without making them look like prisons or fortresses?

South County Career Center (Billy Watson) Grade 12

How come traditional school are the only schools capable of having sports how can centers and emotional disturbed children be involved in other recreational activities?

Spoto (Luz Rosario) Grade 12

What is a vital issue that heavily impacts students the Board wishes to resolve this year and how can students support the Board in their efforts?

Steinbrenner (Sunil Menezes) Grade 12

Pertaining to the topic of buses for transportation, two miles seems to be too far for students to walk who don’t have other means of transportation, especially for younger students who are by themselves or any student walking in the dark who may be invisible to oncoming traffic. Would there be a way to reconsider the distance from school a student has to be to be eligible for transportation via school bus?  Could we possibly reduce the distance and allow more people to have the choice of bus transportation to and from school?

Strawberry Crest (Lori Ann James) Grade 12

What necessary steps can be taken to increase the retention of our teachers?   Also, what can be done by the school board, other teachers, parents and students to increase the teaching morale throughout the District?

Tampa Bay Tech (Brianna Layton) Grade 12

Has the board ever considered having high school interns, so students can gain experience to the policy work that goes into running a district?

D. W. Waters Career (Jasmine Hall) Grade 12

Are there plans for extra safety precautions for a campus like Waters where we have middle school, high school, and babies’ ages 6 weeks to 36 months?

Wharton (Felicity McLeod) Grade 12

There seems to be a different policy for bus riders than student drivers, walkers, and parent drop-offs. If your bus is late, no matter what the cause, you are excused.  If you come late using one of the other methods, you may or may not be excused.  Example… If heavy traffic for a bus rider is excused, why wouldn’t heavy traffic for a student driver be excused?

Citizens Advisory Committee (Adam Rowan, King High School)

Are there more diverse food options at schools to include out of school restaurants?

Board Comments:

Comments by Member Gray, Perez, Hahn, Cona, Chair Shamburger, Vice Chair Snively, and Superintendent Eakins


Round Three Student Questions:

Middleton (Jaylin Cole) Grade 12

For years there has been discussion about seniors being half day students if their schedules allow it. With the increasing number of students choosing trade school and professions right out of high school, would the district consider an OJT (on the job training) program for upper classmen on track to graduate – especially if the district has the goal of preparing students for life?

And an answer to the round 2 question-

Middleton (Demetris Harris) Grade 10

School culture takes years to create and it can be extremely difficult with a high turnover rate of administration. Is there a way that administration can be locked into a minimum number of years contract with high schools so that students have the chance to form meaningful relationships with their admin and for full and thorough implementation of programs and initiatives?

Newsome (Kenya Smith) Grade 12

There is educational research that strongly suggests the inclusion of project-based coursework having more long term, meaningful impact on students’ overall learning experience than traditional book-based learning. Is it possible to begin implementing this format in our schools?

Freedom (Elois Hannah) Grade 12

What steps as the school board members of Hillsborough county public schools, are you taking to implement mandatory diversity training to increase cultural awareness in the classroom amongst teachers and students?

Sickles (Donald Williams) Grade 12

How does the school board ensure that funding is equitable across all schools in Hillsborough County?

Jefferson (Nicholas Torres) Grade 12

What is the money that students pay to play sports (Lacrosse) go towards and how is it being used?

Board Comments:  

Superintendent Eakins, Member Cona, Gray, Hahn and Chair Shamburger

Adjournmentwith no further discussion the student forum was adjourned at 4 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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