Skip Navigation

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
Thursday, February 18, 2016

The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, met for the annual student forum Tuesday, February 18, 2016, at 3 p.m., in the School Board Auditorium, 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, with Superintendent Jeff Eakins, and Board Members Doretha W. Edgecomb, April Griffin, Sally Harris, Carol Kurdell, Melissa Snively, and Susan Valdes present.  Chair Griffin presided.


Absent:  Cindy Stuart

Others present were:


Chief of Staff:  Alberto Vázquez 

Deputy Superintendent:  Van Ayres

Chief of Schools:  Larry Sykes, Ed.D.


Chiefs/Assistant Superintendents

Academic Support and Federal Programs Division:  Tracye Brown

Curriculum and Instruction Division:  Denny Oest

Human Resource Division:  Stephanie Woodford

Information and Technology Division:  Anna Brown, Ed.D.

Workforce Connection:  Scott Brooks


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

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

Sherrie Sikes served as facilitator and introduced Board Chair April Griffin.

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

Chair Griffin gave a brief overview of the student forum that began over 30 years ago.  It was the vision of former School Board member, Cecile Waterman Essrig.  Mrs. Essrig passed away on June 29, 2012.  She was the first woman elected to a major political office in Hillsborough County and served on the School Board for 21 years.   

Everyone on the dais introduced themselves.

Mrs. Sikes outlined the procedures for the forum and recognized Dr. Larry Sykes, Chief of Schools, staff members, and principals present.  Mrs. Sikes recognized three important achievements of our students: graduation rates have increased, Career and Technical Education has increased the number of workforce connections in the Tampa Bay area, and many of our schools have implemented a site-based mentoring program to empower students.

Alonso High School

Zach Smagowicz

Amanda Pham

Amanda Wetzel


Armwood High School

Martaz’Shia Gibbs

Allison Dahl

Tyson Freeman

Blake High School

Briana Miller

Victoria Holland


Bloomingdale High School

Arianna Martinez

Christopher Desmond

Cameron Robertson

Brandon High School

Julia Simpson

Samantha Bolton

Avery Clements


Chamberlain High School

Ansley Hall

Laynardyia Alexander

Timothy Flagler


Durant High School

Olivia Gottman

Haley Fabrizio


East Bay High School

Brea Feck

Courtnee Thaxton

Phyllisity Walters


Freedom High School

Nasir Core

Nancy (Emma) Ernst

Giselle Hernandez

Gaither High School

Daniel "Cope” Hargrove

Payton Hiday

Daniela Torres


Hillsborough High School

Amber Pirson

Francesco Giorgianni

Xavier Price

Daniel Hamilton


Jefferson High School

Verliz Williams

Araceli Aguilar

Cameron Padgett

King High School

Alvin Alummoottil

Tyler Vining

Kela Akins

Kennedy Ware


Lennard High School

Taylor Berlin

Anabel Rodriguez

De’Shawn Barnes

Leto High School

Yanessa Pais

Jeremiah Fuentes

Mark Parry

Middleton High School

Amazinggrace Isioma Ehikioya

Safira Charles

David Zamora


Newsome High School

Jamie Tompkins

Christina Phillips

Katelyn Wojtiuk

Plant High School

Ava Larson

Xan Minan

Chaelle Garcon

Plant City High School

Jaquasious Johnson

Deanna Rodriguez

Wolfgang (Arie) Fry-Eastin

Riverview High School

Sarah Rosario

Blaike Rathbun

Katherine Brunet

Robinson High School

Kayla Knowlton

Virginia Paight

Reginald Mitchell

Zi Jin (Peter) Chan


Sickles High School

Victoria Vite

Caitlyn Russell

Carter Mulroe


Simmons Career Center

Abner Sanchez

Tiffaney Henry

Sara Anderson

Spoto High School

Hector Diaz

Vanessa Goode

Eugene Baisden

Steinbrenner High School

Kyle Langiotti

Alexandra Sikoryak

Andre Washington


Strawberry Crest High School

Brenda Ibarra

Celeste Ibarra

Shalini Jose

Tampa Bay Technical High School

Ariana Madir

Sherneka Streater

Kiara Fonseca

D.W. Waters Career Center

Jorieliz Lopez

Cynthia Crosby

Mario Davis

Wharton High School

Julia McKernan

Evan Trice

Ilenia Armstrong

Bowers/Whitley Career Center

Christian Lee

Jamera Alexander

Natalie (Mireya) Hunter


Citizen Advisory Committee

Cynthia Bencomo – Jefferson High School

Sawyer Carlton – King High School


Round One Student Questions: 

Alonso (Zach Smagowicz) All around the district there are many student athletes who drive themselves to various sporting events because no transportation is provided by the school district.  Also many student athletes must compete at various athletic functions during exam week. What are ways to be considerate of student athletes in regard to transportation, travel hours, and scheduling of sporting events? 

Armwood (Allison Dahl) Students are continually finding opportunities to be college/career ready as they finish high school.  How can our district increase internship opportunities and develop more communication with area businesses for upperclassmen as they prepare to exit high school?

Blake (Briana Miller) In order to keep abreast of the current college and business trends and properly provide all students with a marketable skill-set as a successful graduate of Hillsborough County, I would like to see the district encourage all students to enroll in courses that will provide them with an opportunity to gain College & Career Readiness Skills, with emphasis on offering the students various ways to obtain full hands-on experience for college and/or the business world.  Does the district feel that this request can be implemented successfully for all students to obtain prior to graduating?

Bloomingdale(Cameron Robertson) Some students are raised in homes that are not equipped with the technology that their peers may have and they have less exposure to this technology.  Can students have the choice of assignment methods? (i.e. Computers, paper/pencils)

Bowers/Whitley (Jamera Alexander)So that we are more focused at the beginning of the school year, is it possible to suggest to the state that we spread out State Testing throughout the school year?

Brandon(Avery Clements) What are the solutions to the overwhelming amount of state testing that causes student anxiety and pressures educators to only teach to pass the tests?

Chamberlain (Ansley Hall) Chamberlain seems to be a little outdated compared to other schools.  When is Chamberlain scheduled for a major renovation?

Durant (Haley Fabrizio) Seniors are motivated to attend school during the last semester so they can exempt their exams.  Why is this incentive not given to all grades?

East Bay (Brea Feck) Would it be possible for the mid-term and final exams grade to not be factored into the grade or for it to have less weight?

Freedom (Nancy (Emma) Ernst) Would the School Board be willing to consider a defined dress code for teachers by defining "professional attire”?

Gaither(Daniela Torres) This generation of students is constantly being tested. What is an alternate option being considered regarding standardized tests? 

Hillsborough (Amber Pirson) Will the district increase teacher pay to attract more undergraduate and/or graduate students in the local area colleges to teach for the school district?

Jefferson (Verliz Williams) The textbooks utilized in AP courses are outdated.  Could the Board consider allocating funds to keep the AP textbooks up to date, therefore increasing the students’ chances of being successful on the AP exams?

King (Alvin Alumnmoottil) As student athletes we are required to not only perform on the field but in the classroom as well. The timing of games often affects students’ abilities to complete their homework to the best of their abilities. What is the process of scheduling games and is it possible to schedule them earlier in the day?

Lennard (Taylor Berlin) Lunch portions are small, especially for student athletes.  Can the size of lunch portions be increased?

Leto (Mark Parry) The student population has been steadily increasing each school year at Leto, causing major overcrowding and forcing many teachers in every department to float.  What can be done to help relieve our schools of overcrowding?

Middleton (David Zamora) Many students, for financial or others reason, have to move around the district.  What is the district doing to see that AP classes across the district are teaching the same skills at the same level?

Newsome (Katelyn Wojtiuk)In the teacher evaluation process is there a way to include student input?  If so, can it make an impact on the vetting system?

Plant (Xan Minan) Seniors receive five absences before they are ineligible to exempt their exams.  Often times this comes in conflict with college related responsibilities and opportunities.  Would the School Board be willing to change or consider such absences as school business?

Plant City (Jaquasious Johnson)Has there been any consideration given to high school students starting school at a later time?  Many students get in late because of athletics or jobs?  Students may have homework to complete with all of the AP, Honors or Dual Enrollment classes they are taking, causing them to get to bed late and then have to get up early to be at school by 7:30 a.m.

Riverview (Sarah Rosario)Why do AP classes need to take a semester exam in addition to the AP exam?

Robinson (Zi Jim (Peter) Chan) Many of the IB students don’t fully understand how Common Core will change or has changed our curriculum.  Could the Board Members elaborate on the changes made to our curriculum?

Sickles (Caitlyn Russell)While mentoring at one of our elementary feeder schools, I saw a vast difference between parental involvement and education resources that I had experienced growing up and even today at the high school level.  In what ways could the district work with PTSA to assist schools by dividing and sharing support to schools that have limited parent support available? I believe that with this additional support you would see higher student academic success.

Simmons Career Center (Tiffaney Henry)What is the county planning to do to help Career Center Agricultural (Ag) Programs comparing them to traditional high school agricultural programs?

Spoto (Hector Diaz) Many students have to travel longer distances to attend their zoned school when another school is often closer to their home.  Are there plans to re-evaluate boundaries for schools in the future?

Steinbrenner (Kyle Langiotti)Why does graduation have to be held at the Fair Grounds for every high school instead of somewhere geographically centered?  Can this be improved in the future?

Strawberry Crest (Shalini Jose)As an IB student I am able to receive college credit for the IB exams I take in May.  I understand that students must sit for a minimum of two AP exams as a graduation requirement as well, but this is already covered when I took AP European in 10th grade and AP US History in 11th grade. Why are IB seniors required to take a minimum of two additional AP exams when such exams give the same college credit as IB exams?

Tampa Bay Tech (Ariana Madir)Is it possible to expand the current SAT and ACT waivers to the entire student body, not just those on free and reduced lunch?

D. W. Waters Career (Jorieliz Lopez)Research says that high school students do not really wake up and perform their mental best until 10 o’clock in the morning.  Has the District ever considered allowing high school students to attend at a later time in the morning?

Wharton (Ilenia Armstrong)All high schools have various vocational training programs, however, not every program is offered at every school.   Is there a way to create a program that would allow students to attend their neighborhood school for academics, as well as a central site for vocational training?

Citizens Advisory Committee (Cynthia Bencomo) Students in courses with end of course tests (EOC’s) do not have to take the county exam.  Could students enrolled in AP courses also be exempt from the county exam since they take AP exams?

Board comments by Mrs. Edgecomb, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Snively, Mrs. Valdes and Chair Griffin. 


Round Two Student Questions: 

Alonso (Amanda Wetzel) What authority can be given to teachers and faculty that would allow for better discipline in schools; especially in schools that historically have poor behavioral records?

Armwood (Martaz’shia Gibbs) I know that a traditional school setting is not always beneficial for every single student.  However, what can the school district do to increase awareness and create more opportunities of positive alternative settings for those students who are at-risk of dropping out of high school?

Blake (Victoria Holland) Moral values in education such as respect, honor and loyalty seems to be utilized lightly in today’s education arena.  Has the school board considered implementing some form of revitalization to encourage the importance of training our students in these areas for their future growth within society?

Bloomingdale(Christopher Desmond) How can foreign language be implemented into the curriculum at an earlier age?  (i.e. Elementary/Pre-K/K-5) Can we offer languages like Mandarin and Arabic?

Bowers/Whitley (Natalie (Mireya) Hunter) Since the Career Centers are now 18 credit programs, could they be provided after school buses in order to complete credit recovery classes that are required for graduation?

Brandon (Samantha Bolton) What is your biggest priority when it comes to schools in your district?

Chamberlain(Laynardyia Alexander) Currently there are SAT Prep courses.  Is there a plan to also offer ACT Prep courses?

Durant (Olivia Gottman) How will the district’s budget cuts ensure that it will not affect student’s education in the future?

East Bay (Phyllisity Walters) Is there an attractor program that could be placed at East Bay High School?

Freedom (Nasir Core) Many of my friends complained about overcrowding on their bus and having to sit three to a seat.  What is the Board doing to help address this situation?

Gaither(Payton Hiday) Given the competitiveness of college acceptance requirements, would you consider imploring the College Board to limit the number of AP classes a student could take during a particular semester, in an effort to remain competitive among our peers?  We would also like to inquire as to what the reasons were in the past, to eliminate study hall from our day?

Hillsborough (Xavier Price) Would it be possible to be re-enrolled in both your traditional high school and a career center so that students could learn a trade (such as construction) but still get to participate in the normal high school activities?

Jefferson (Araceli Aguilar) As class president, it is very frustrating to be allowed to do only one fundraiser per school year.  Would the Board consider raising this to three fundraisers per club per school year?

King (Kennedy Ware) Once a student completes a full athletic packet, can it count for all years the student attends the same school?

Lennard (Anabel Rodriguez) Why are clubs limited to one fundraiser per year?

Leto (Jeremiah Fuentes) Many of our school crosswalks are poorly lit or pose other visibility challenges, putting students who walk to school in danger.  After a number of traffic injuries and fatalities involving students, what is being done to ensure student’s safety?  Why doesn’t every school have a lit pedestrian crosswalk safety system?

Middleton (Amazinggrace Isioma Ehikioya) Many students are finding it hard to meet graduation requirements because of the intense testing schedule which interrupts regular class studies.  Is there any way to implement a plan that would help students and teachers prepare for exams and standardized tests while providing an easier transition back to the work of their main classwork?

Newsome (Jaime Tompkins) In the face of a county wide attendance issue among seniors, do you think that bringing back the first semester exam-exemption policy would help diminish senior absenteeism all year as opposed to only in second semester?

Plant (Ava Larson)Is it possible to require the more successful teachers that usually have to teach higher level students teach at least one intensive or lower level class?

Plant City (Deanna Rodriguez)When the Board states that it can’t answer all of our questions because of the State, how can we voice our opinion to the State or the Federal Government? (i.e. testing)

Riverview (Blaike Rathbun)Why is our school day longer than those in some surrounding counties such as Pinellas and Pasco?

Robinson (Kayla Knowlton)Why are private schools allowed to compete with public schools?  They can recruit, and we can’t.

Sickles (Victoria Vite) Several years ago the district implemented the AVID program to provide assistance and support for students to reach their potential for college success.  As an AVID student, I have personally experienced the benefit of our school district’s decision to offer this opportunity.  What programs are being developed by the district to ensure that students who are struggling academically, but who are not involved with AVID because they do not meet that criteria, are given the same opportunities to learn those strategies for success while earning class credit for that support?

Simmons Career Center (Sara Anderson)Is the county willing to give top-of-the-line teachers an incentive to come and teach at a Career Center?

Spoto (Vanessa Goode) What is the plan for student discipline for the 2016-2017 school year?  Will students who behave be impacted academically by students who misbehave and are allowed to stay in school?

Steinbrenner (Alexandra Sikoryak)Why is our school day so long compared to other districts around the state?  We are on track to graduate with 28 credits when only 24 credits are necessary.  There are ways that the schedule can be adjusted with this extra period in mind to provide more time for after school extracurricular activities and jobs, or a later start time to support the findings that teenagers circadian rhythm has shifted and require more sleep.

Strawberry Crest (Brenda Ibarra)Since we are an IB School, I feel that the traditional students should be given the opportunity to have a study hall period like the IB students do.  If not all traditional students then at least the ones taking AP classes.

Tampa Bay Tech (Sherneka Streater) Hillsborough County Schools pride themselves on integrating technology into the classroom.  With that in mind as the "Bring your own Device” initiative, what steps have been taken to utilize electronic textbooks rather than our current paper based textbooks?

D. W. Waters Career (Mario Davis)Presently the Career Center students do not have the opportunity to participate in sports or band activities like the traditional high schools.  Now that the Career Centers have the 18 credit option, would the District consider the possibility of allowing these students to participate in sports and band activities at the other schools?

Wharton (Julia McKernan) Wharton currently has an activity bus for students participating in athletics.  Why are we not able to provide the same opportunity for students that want to stay afterschool for tutoring, clubs, or other academic programs?

Citizens Advisory Committee (Cynthia Bencomo) Why are there earmarked accounts for schools and no flexibility for principals?  i.e. if more money needs to be put into academics but the school only has money for "maintenance”, why do they not have the flexibility to use that money for what is needed?

Board Comments by Mrs. Valdes, Mrs. Edgecomb, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Snively and Chair Griffin.


Round Three Student Questions:

Alonso (Amanda Pham) Why do all classes have to administer exams such as AP Support, Yearbook and Leadership, which are all student performance-based and not actual content-based?  Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

Bloomingdale(Arianna Martinez) Given the benefits of a study hall period, what measures can be taken toward instituting the practice in schools across Hillsborough County?  Mrs. Edgecomb made brief comments.

Bowers/Whitley (Christian Lee) For students who are struggling with computer use after school hours to complete assignments, would it be possible for you to create a policy for students to sign-out laptops?  Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

Freedom (Giselle Hernandez) Why is SpringBoard used as a tool to teach students, when many teachers and students complain about it? Mrs. Snively made brief comments.

Hillsborough (Amber Pirson) Student informed Board on the Choice Room method that is currently in place at Hillsborough to help improve student discipline on a minor offense.  This maintains a positive relationship with students.  Mrs. Snively made brief comments.   

King (Kennedy Ware) Is there a way to integrate IB specific computer programs, such as mangebac with programs like Edsby?  Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

Lennard (Taylor Berlin) Is there money in the budget to fund school spirit buses to events so that students can support their peers at away games?  Mrs. Snively and Mrs. Harris made brief comments.

Middleton (Safira Charles)Students enjoyed being able to see their progress towards graduation and even schedule time with their counselors using Guide Me.  Is there a program that the district plans to implement so students can work more hands on with their counselors and teachers while programming classes and checking graduation requirements?  Mrs. Edgecomb made brief comments.

Plant City (Wolfgang (Arie) Fry-Eastin) It seems that the main focus of high school is to encourage students to take AP, IB, Dual Enrollment and other challenging classes.  However, many students lack the skills that will prepare them for life, such as balancing a checkbook, completing job applications and resumes, and resolving conflict.  Is there any way to require students to take a course that will help these types of real world skills?  Chair Griffin and Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

Plant City (Jaquasious Johnson)Plant City High School had programs and activities which involved around increasing awareness of African American History month.  Why can’t the district hire someone to help initiate African American History curriculum into our schools?  Mrs. Edgecomb, Mrs. Valdes, and Mrs. Kurdell made brief comments. 

Riverview (Katherine Brunet)Students spend more time preparing for standardized tests than actually learning new content.  Will standardized testing ever stop or at least slow down?  Mrs. Edgecomb made brief comments.

Sickles (Carter Mulroe) Since a grade of A indicates knowledge of content, could there be an exam exemption incentive in the first semester for seniors who maintain an A in each of the 9 week grading period?  Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

Simmons Career Center (Abner Sanchez)Is there a way that Career Center students can participate in sports?  Mrs. Valdes made a brief comment.

Spoto (Hector Diaz) Are there any plans to re-evaluate the districts athletic transfer policy, specifically in the amount of paperwork and the process that a transfer student must go through to become eligible in athletics?  Superintendent Eakins made brief comments.

D. W. Waters Career (Cynthia Crosby) D. W. Waters would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Susan Valdes for addressing the Satellite Lunch site issue.  Now the food is prepared on campus and is very tasty.  

Wharton (Evan Trice) While I know there is a need for mouth pieces to be worn at football, why are Hillsborough County Schools required to wear mouth pieces for other sports while non-public schools and other counties do not have this requirement?  Mrs. Snively made a brief comment.

Chair Griffin made closing remarks.


Adjournmentwith no further discussion the student forum was adjourned at 5:03 p.m.  Audio recording on file. 



April Griffin, Chair















Jeff Eakins, Superintendent

And Ex-Officio Secretary



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.

Search for School
Find a School
School Locator

Locate your attendance area school

School Locator