COLLIER STUDENT PROTESTS
- VIDEO: Hundred turn out for Feb. 21 school board meeting on block scheduling
- VIDEO: Raw video footage of Lely High protest
- VIDEO: Cell phone videos of Palmetto Ridge High protest
- VIDEO: Benjamin MacDonough cell phone video (Gulf Coast)
- VIDEO: Macy Ballin cell phone video #1 | Macy Ballin cell phone video #2 (Gulf Coast)
- VIDEO: Valentina Floegel cell phone video (Gulf Coast)
- PHOTOS: Student photos from the protests
- PHOTOS: Daily News photo coverage
- RELATED: Read the original story and the hundreds of comments about the protest 2/20/08
- RELATED: School Board to keep block schedules 2/21/08
- SUBMIT YOUR STUFF: Send us your photos & video from the protest
Students turn out by the hundreds to protest the scheduling change in Collier schools. Watch »
Gulf Coast High student Valentina Floegel submitted this 15-second cell-phone video shot in the school's courtyard during the student protest over proposed schedule changes. Watch »
Gulf Coast High student Macy Ballin submitted this 28-second cell-phone video shot in the school's courtyard during the student protest over proposed schedule changes. Watch »
Gulf Coast High sophomore Benjamin MacDonough shot this 24-second cell-phone video in the school's courtyard during the student protest over proposed schedule changes around 9 a.m. today. Video was shot with a Motorola Q cell phone. Watch »
The Collier County School Board agrees block scheduling should stay in Collier County high schools.
For one more year.
But whether to go from eight credits to seven in the 2009-10 school year was a little trickier.
The School Board voted 4-1 Thursday night to keep the 4x4 block schedule for the 2008-09 school year. Board Vice Chairwoman Pat Carroll dissented.
The move would allow students to take four 86-minute classes per semester and earn eight credits during the 2008-09 school year.
The majority of board members said they think the schedule needs to be changed, but said more information was needed and that couldn’t be accomplished by August, when the new school year starts.
Carroll cast her dissenting vote, advocating to change the schedule as a means to meet benchmarks set in the class-size reduction amendment, which would limit class size to 25 in high school classes like math and English, and budget cutbacks.
“The state made the block schedule unaffordable,” she said. “This is not of our doing. It is a state requirement. And if we don’t meet that state requirement, we are at risk of losing additional state funding.”
Carroll said she spoke with other superintendents statewide and said they have told her seven-period days can work and career education and electives can succeed and flourish.
The board had been considering a move to a mandatory seven-period schedule, which was recommended by district staff.
The change would have saved the district $5.7 million and cut 84 high school teaching positions.
Officials have said the change also would have solved the district’s problems that were highlighted in the Hinshaw & Culbertson report about the pairing of Advanced Placement classes and would address the availability of resources, which are shrinking due to a state general revenue shortfall.
Students, teachers and parents have said the plan would hurt the quality of education in the county.
School Board Chairwoman Linda Abbott told the packed chambers that keeping the block schedule would mean some changes.
“If we continue with the block, you are not going to see the same pairing with AP courses,” she said. “We have reserves in our budget for emergencies and we have had a lot of emergencies this year. It is not a lack of management. It is the entire state. We can dip into our reserves to pay for block one more year, but we will not have that money, nor the money we took out of reserves after that.”
After the vote to keep block for one more year, the board moved into discussion about whether to go from eight credits to seven.
Students, parents and teachers spoke out before the vote, asking the School Board to delay the vote until they could have more discussion.
“We did hire you. We did vote for you. Doesn’t the School Board represent the schools and don’t I attend school?” asked Palmetto Ridge High School sophomore Emmanuella Dorval. “I think it’s in (your) best interest to listen to us. This board keeps saying we don’t have enough money. Find a way.”
John Dwyer, an English teacher at Lely High School, said the School Board needs to find another way to save money.
“I am tired of the people in this building thinking they are smarter than us,” he said. “It is time to stop saving money on the backs of teachers and students. It’s time to stop shaking up the school house.”
When reaction in the audience began to get out of hand, board member Steve Donovan asked that the board adjourn its meeting. But there was a motion on the floor to vote to move to a seven-credit year in 2009-10.
The board voted 3-2 to go from an eight-credit year to a seven-credit year.
Carroll said it was crucial for the board to make a decision Thursday night.
“The decision to go off block next year or the year after needs to be made today,” she said. “(The students) need to know what we’re going to do. If we’re going off block in two years, (they need to know). It’s not fair to keep them in limbo.”
Superintendent Dennis Thompson said not voting was going to put the district in the same position it is now.
“It really comes down to the quality of instruction, that’s what makes a difference,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be at the same place, with the same list next year.”
Abbott and board member Kathleen Curatolo cast the dissenting votes.
“I think it is important to look at the variables and the legislative issues in our funding,” Curatolo said. “I would like to see the administration bring forward more creative options with all credits rather than voting on a specific number of credits now.”
The vote angered many in the audience who still wanted the opportunity to speak.
“You think you have our best interests at heart? You don’t,” Naples High School freshman Nicole Gargiulo said. “It’s ridiculous. You are throwing away our lives.”
Following public speakers, board member Richard Calabrese asked if he could change his vote. His fellow board members declined to reconsider the vote and the motion failed.
Calabrese was upset that he wasn’t allowed to reconsider his vote.
“It is my vote. Shouldn’t I be allowed to change it?” he asked.
John Fishbane, who was acting as board attorney in Richard Withers’ absence, said a majority had to agree to reconsider the vote under Robert’s Rules of Order.
Calabrese said he would change his vote via letter Friday as was procedure. Carroll said he could not do that because a board member cannot change his votes after the fact.
The board can agree to reconsider the issue at a future date, board members were told Thursday evening. Young students in Collier County hoped the credit issue would be brought up for discussion again.
“We are not statistics. We are students. Don’t look at the money, look at the students’ opinions and look at what we (say),” Gulf Coast High School freshman Josh Goldsmith said.
• "Fewer teachers equates to less education. That's not complicated."
- Chris Honiball, a junior at Gulf Coast High School, said in reference to the fact that changes to the high school schedule could result in fewer teachers.
• "I think that removing block schedule, this year, next year, or any year (is not) a good idea."
- Lincoln Robinson, a senior at Gulf Coast High School
• "We're not a bank, we're not a venture capitalist firm. We're a school board."
- Evan Weiss, a junior at Gulf Coast High School, said about the need to change the four-by-four schedule because of budgetary concerns.
• "I dont think its fair to Immokalee High School to use them as test dummies for something."
- Matt Weaver, a Gulf Coast High School junior, said about Richard Calabrese's request to try a seven period day at Immokalee High School.
• "It's time to stop shaking up the school house."
- John Dwyer, a teacher at Lely High School.
• "We're 'safe' because we have block schedule for another year. (But it's about) our friends, our little sisters and little brothers. It's going to negatively impact them."
- Liz Gerrity, a Gulf Coast High School junior, said after the board voted. Gerrity was unable to finish her comments during the public comment portion of the discussion because district officals deemed her comments were out of line.
• "If we take these teachers away, it just shows money talks. I don't see other (options) to get the money, why does it have to be their education."
- D'Juana Caldwell, a mother of two Palmetto Ridge High School students, said about the concern that four-by-four block scheduling was too costly.
• "We are not statistics. We are students. Don't look at the money, look at the students opinions and look at what we feel."
- Josh Goldsmith, a ninth-grade student at Gulf Coast High School.
• "The decision to go off block next year or the year after needs to be made today. (The students) need to know what we're going to do. If we're going off block in two years, (they need to know). Its not fair to keep them in limbo."
- School Board Vice Chairwoman Pat Carroll
• "I am absolutely opposed to (changing) block scheduling today. I don't think it's fair to our students. But under the circumstances, I would be inclined to postpone this for a year.
- School Board member Kathy Curatolo
• "I would prefer we move to a (traditional schedule), but if that fails, (we should) stay on for this year. But this would be the last year of the block I would ever support."
- School Board member Steve Donovan
• "It has been said that you must follow what the people want, that's not really true. We're elected officials. You voted for us for who we are. There's another way to describe what the people want, and that's mob rule. And I will never succumb to mob rule."
- School Board member Richard Calabrese, who also said he was in favor of keeping block for one more year.
• "This is not a football game."
- School Board member Steve Donovan said earlier in the day when the crowd was cheering over a parent's comment.
- - -
Live blog posted earlier:
The Collier County School Board is set to decide this afternoon whether to change the current block scheduling at local high schools.
The meeting, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Administration Center in North Naples, didn't begin until about 3:20 p.m. The meeting is live on Education Channel 20.
Today's meeting follows two days of major protests by students at area high schools. Several students are expected to continue their protest at the meeting.
Staff writer Kate Lewis is covering the meeting and provided this pre-meeting blog from the scene:
3:19 p.m. - It is standing room only in the Collier County School Board meeting and the fire marshal won't have it. School Board Chairwoman Linda Abbott has told members of the audience that they cannot be in the meeting unless they have a seat.
2:41 p.m. - It seems the students have found an ally.
Collier County School Board member Richard Calabrese said he is inclined to vote against the proposed seven-period schedule.
"I think (Superintendent) Dr. (Dennis) Thompson is correct. I think we need to get rid of block. But I also don't think we have been given enough information," he said. "We talk about cutting courses. How many and which courses?"
Calabrese said he was going to suggest that the district pilot a seven-class day in Immokalee because the principal and teachers expressed support for it.
2:27 p.m. - School Board member Richard Calabrese is the first board member to arrive. As he walks toward the dais, he is greeted by several students.
2:15 p.m. - More students have begun filling the Collier County School Board's chambers. Several Palmetto Ridge High School students have showed up in red shirts for solidarity. More news media outlets have been arriving and many are interviewing students as they come in. Several students carry signs that read "Keep Our Blocks." At least one Lely High School student - junior class representative Katy Melchiorre has asked about making a presentation to the School Board.
2:03 p.m. - Some Lely High School students have just showed up to the chambers. They are selecting their seats and have comment cards in their hands.
1:55 p.m. - With more than an hour to go before the start of the Collier County School Board meeting, students have already begun gathering in the parking lot. Inside the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, two district employees are preparing the overhead projectors to show portions of the presentation on the high school schedule. One community member sits in the darkened school board chambers.