Sentinel Staff Writer
May 16, 2008
Discontent mounted Thursday over Orange County´s decision to swap middle-school and high-school schedules this fall.
One School Board member vowed he would try to reverse the School Board´s Tuesday night decision, while students started organizing protests, including a Web site devoted to overturning the new schedule that will have middle schools starting first and high schools later.
Wekiva High junior Darrah Phillips said she created a MySpace page called “Voice Against the Choice” so students across the county could have a single place to get info and register displeasure.
“I saw how many students and parents were upset,” said Darrah, 17.
Darrah worries that the new schedule will spell the end of her water-polo team. The team practices at Lake Brantley High School in Seminole, which also shares its pool with Apopka High. But because Orange County high schools will get out so late next year, she´s convinced there won´t be enough time for all three teams.
Her Web page links to videos of friends denouncing the change, as well as to an online petition that had more than 700 signatures as of late Thursday.
Meanwhile, board member Rick Roach, who opposed the measure to change schedules, announced he would urge those who supported it to reconsider the decision at the board´s May 27 meeting.
“In order to make such a move on my part, I would have to have substantial evidence that would cause other members to review the previous vote,” he wrote in an e-mail to the public. “I do have such information and I am confident that many of you also have other ways we can replace 2.3 million dollars in our operating budget without flipping schedules.”
Roach plans a community forum at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Freedom High School in Orlando to gather more information for his fellow board members. The school´s address is 2500 Taft-Vineland Road.
On Tuesday, board members acknowledged that they knew the budget-saving move would be unpopular, but they narrowly approved it on a 4-3 vote. Under School Board rules, only those who supported the measure can ask for another vote. But all four board members have said they would not back down, saying they made the best move for a school district that faces cutting $70 million from its budget during the next two years.
“We were all pretty committed in our vote,” board member Daryl Flynn said. “I´m confident that it can work.”
“I am not even wavering,” said board member Kat Gordon, who added that flipping schedules was far better than losing more teachers.
Since Tuesday, parents and students have bombarded board members´ inboxes with e-mails, most opposing the change.
Students swiftly organized petition drives and online campaigns to sway board members.
“It just affects my daily life,” said 18-year-old Edgewater High junior Jordan Eichenblatt, who thinks he´ll have to quit his after-school job that starts at 4 p.m.
Jordan said he has collected 450 signatures from students, teachers and parents upset with the decision. He wants to present his petitions to Orange County Superintendent Ron Blocker in person next week.
Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel