Residents, Officials Discuss Potential IB Program at Riverhills Elementary

Hillsborough Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia said school officials will study the issue more before they make a recommendation to the School Board.

Cyndi Mohler, vice chairwoman of the Temple Terrace School Support Committee, came to a Town Hall meeting at Lightfoot Recreation Center Tuesday concered about a potential International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Riverhills Elementary School.

She, Temple Terrace City Council members, and nearly 200 parents who attended the meeting were mainly worried about the drawing of new boundaries and which schools current Riverhills students would attend if they don’t choose to enroll in a lottery to go to the new IB Riverhills.

“I want those kids to be in the neighborhood,” Mohler said. “We are disenfranchising them by sending those students across town. We have to go to the root of the problem to help them.”

For years, Riverhills Elementary has been seen as a dark spot on an otherwise fairly clean report card in the Temple Terrace area. In 2011, it received an “F” from the Florida Department of Education. This year, it received a “D.”

At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, the school introduced a new teaching model and became Riverhills Elementary Gifted Academy for Learning. A Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) was implemented, offering a unique approach to learning that increases student performance and deepens their enjoyment of learning, said Principal Todd Connolly.

“I’m here to better understand why the new gifted program just put into place at Riverhills isn’t being given time to succeed,” said Cindy Keding, a parent at Lewis Elementary School, before the meeting.

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Hillsborough County School Board Chairwoman April Griffin and members Doretha W. Edgecomb, Stacy R. White and Cindy Stuart answered questions before the meeting convened. Then, Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia opened the meeting.

“We’re here to respond to concerns from the Temple Terrace School Support Committee who has asked us to put into place a program (at Riverhills) to increase attendance,” Elia said. “We responded by offering the most academically rigorous program we have: IB.”

The Hillsborough school district has two elementary IB programs in the county at Lincoln and McFarland Park elementary school, and requests for attendance at both of those schools has increased, Elia said.

“As a result, we’ve determined that in that geographic area we need another IB elementary school to meet the growing demand,” she said.

She said the IB program would help improve area schools because it raises the bar on educational expectations. IB takes a global perspective on education. The curriculum is designed to challenge students with a more rigorous, project-based approach to education that encourages problem-solving and independent thinking.

Elia said the program would draw students from throughout the school district; however, Temple Terrace students who live within certain boundaries would be given a priority. Current Riverhills students who do not choose to be placed in a lottery for IB Riverhills would be divided among Lewis, Temple Terrace and Kimbell elementary schools.

Some council members and parents, however, questioned the impact the change could have on other Temple Terrace schools.

“It’s an important issue for our community,” said Mayor Frank Chillura, according to a city press release. Chillura raised concerns about the displacement of students not admitted to the program, the student-population balance among schools, and the drawing of boundaries.

“We want to make sure Temple Terrace schools reflect Temple Terrace neighborhoods,” he said.

Before the meeting, Jennifer Terry, PTA president at Lewis Elementary, shared similar sentiments.

“I’d like to ensure we have support in place at Lewis to meet the needs of these students while maintaining the high standards we’ve worked so hard to put into place,” she said.

Lorraine Duffy Suarez, the district’s general manager of Growth Management. & Planning, addressed concerns about overcrowding at Lewis.

“So, now we’ve got at Lewis a capacity for 943 students,” she said. “Currently there are 787 students enrolled at an 83 percent capacity. Based on our experience with other similar conversions, we are projecting that 71 students may come to Lewis, increasing capacity to 91 percent the next school year.” 

City Councilman Grant Rimbey said the increase seemed disproportionate when compared to the student numbers at Kimbell.

“Kimbell Elementary has a current capacity of 66.7 percent with a projected increase to 71 percent,” he said. “Can we send more former Riverhills students that live in Tampa to Kimbell?”

Added Rimbey: “I don’t see many disadvantages for Lewis or Temple Terrace Elementary, and I see this being potentially a great thing for Temple Terrace as a whole. Temple Terrace as a city needs to learn to compete; we have competition now in New Tampa and Brandon for residents.”

Three year Temple Terrace resident Ann Leavine agreed.

“I think the school would be great,” she said. “The community needs to be open to change. We’ve been very impressed with the volunteerism, but I think it’s time to embrace change and expand the vision of the city.”

The council asked school officials to look more closely at how boundaries are drawn to ensure Temple Terrace students get the best shot at attending the new program, and to study the balance of students sent to other schools.

Elia said school officials will study the matter and decide whether to make a recommendation to the School Board.

See also:
IB Program Subject of Town Hall Meeting 

Joey Affronti December 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I love the way all these people stood up that night with their so called "concerns" for the Riverhills students and acting like they were really concerned. I have one question. Have you even stepped foot into Riverhills to help them, see what they were doing there and or provide any support? If the answer is no, then how can you really act concerned? As councilman Rimbey said, "Riverhills hasn't been a neighborhood school for years". The Temple Terrace School Support Committee recommended to the School District about having an IB program at Riverhills. The minutes of the 1-23-12 School Support Committee meeting CLEARLY reflect the interest in making this school an IB. Furthermore, NOWHERE in the minutes does it state the committee removed this idea from the table. As stated in the meeting on Monday night, anyone who lives in the current Riverhills boundary would receive priority points for admission into the IB program. This is exactly what the South Side of TT needs. I believe this will help increase the desire for families to consider purchasing a home in that part of town.
shewithnoname December 21, 2012 at 01:10 PM
In these disastrous economic times, it is beyond comprehension how any American public school district could consider wasting millions of dollars on elementary IB programs. These "programmes" are not a curriculum, they are nothing but very expensive UN "themes" which must be integrated into your regular Florida standards. Furthermore, the IB PYP mandates that an entire school must adopt the program. www.truthaboutib.com
Joey Affronti December 21, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Say what you want about IB, but people line up getting the applications in for their kids to attend IB programs. The demand is there for another IB elementary school and with the strong desire for people to send their kids to these types of rigorous programs, this just might be just what our city needs to spark interest in living on the south side of town considering the priority points received for living in the area. People move all the time in order to get their kids in a desired school boundary. If a parent was interested in an IB track for their child, and they lived in TT, they could have their kids attend IB at Riverhills, Williams followed by King. All 3 schools would be relatively close to each other and our community. This way a kid living in this area, wouldn't have to be bused all the way across town.
mike mohler December 21, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I totally agree with you Joey. It would make the Riverhills area more attractive to potiential home buyers. However the under performing kids from Riverhills and shipping them to Lewis would do the exact opposite for anyone considering purchasing a home in the Lewis boundry. Living in the RIverhills boundry also does not get your child in to the IB program. I would be interested in learning more about the " priority points ".As is the school support commitee I am interested in what having an IB program at a local school and like the school support committee I want more information. As Grand Rimbey said " Riverhills hasn't been a neighborhood school for years" so let keep Lewis a neighborhood school.
Joey Affronti December 21, 2012 at 01:46 PM
First off Mike, it is nice to see another person on here who doesn't hide behind a fake name. LOL Riverhills, like all other schools, does have under performing kids; however, assuming that all the kids being transferred to Lewis, TTE or Kimball are under performing is just speculation on their part. Furthermore, if for example, all 70 or so kids being transferred to 1 school were all in the same grade level and were ALL under performing, then yes, it might have an effect on the school. However, having 70 kids dispersed across 6 grade levels and chances are, NOT ALL are under performing, this should not have an effect on the school. I don't know about anyone else, but being a parent of 2 kids at Lewis, I have full confidence in the Faculty and Administration at Lewis to be able to get the job done no matter what kids attend the school. This is their job and what they have committed their livelihood to for all these years. We are talking about less than 2 kids per classroom. I really do not think 2 kids in one class from Riverhills are going to have an adverse effect on the quality of education my child will receive at Lewis.
Beth Williams December 21, 2012 at 02:25 PM
The rating of a school should show how well the school is doing at helping students perform, not how loud parents yell to keep kids they find undesirable out of their school. As the mother of an "underperforming" child (who, by the way, lives in the Lewis boundaries), I am totally disgusted by this article. The concern should lie solely with getting ALL CHILDREN the best education they can receive, even if some of those kids need some extra help.
Joey Affronti December 21, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Beth, very well said. And Kudos for not hiding behind a fake name as well. LOL
JS December 21, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Joey, the fact that you use your real name is your own business, and likely not an extremely wise choice. Most law enforcement and legal counsel would advise it is a rather foolish one. Even the Supreme Court thinks it is important to remain anonymous. In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission that the First Amendment supports the right to be anonymous: Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society. The key point above is it protects people who may hold minority views. There is much written about online safety, identity theft, and using your real name, for example: www.scambusters.org/postonline.html The only using a real name online is in a private social media account used for friends and family only, completely blocked from public access or view. And even then, your ever word is being logged and you take a risk. It is not a wise choice in a world full of extremely unstable individuals. It may be your choice, more power to you. And having personally been a victim of identity theft, your advice to others to follow down that path is ill conceived.
Joey Affronti December 21, 2012 at 05:17 PM
JS Not sure what your comment has to do with the topic of discussion other than to give me some kind of First Amendment lesson. I guess if I need help with the Amendments, I know where to turn. Your comment about me "advising" others to follow me in not remaing anonymous is not accurate. I never suggested people to not remain anonymous, rather, just pointing out those who are not trying to "Hide" behind their comments, similar to the way people are hiding behind the "real" reason they do not want the IB program at Riverhills.
Mike Donohue December 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
The IB plan for Riverhills is a winner. The Council has voted in favor of it. Let's move forward.
Elizabeth A. Leib December 22, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Hi Beth, you make an important point about school ratings. I'm sorry you felt the article reflected otherwise.
JS December 23, 2012 at 12:31 AM
You make the comment about people and real names in almost every post you make, not just this article about the IB program, as you well know. "I never suggested people to not remain anonymous" . really? are we going to have to bat semantics around here and discuss your real point making the same comment over and over again? Read the opinion from the court and perhaps you will better recognize who they who they were protecting from whom.
Kadat December 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I LOVE the idea of Riverhills Elementary adopting an IB program for students! We have lived within a few blocks of the school for 10 years. A few years ago, I remember a very large banner draped across the entrance to the school that read, "Congratulations, We are Adequate!" I was so surprised because usually other schools would drape a banner celebrating that they were "A+" schools, not just passable. Now, after reading that they had received an "F" and a "D" grade in recent years, I can see why they were happy about being adequate, even though it depressed me to no end. A good education is something that can never be taken away from you later. It will be exciting for the students, their parents, the teachers and the neighborhood to have something to really cheer about.
Kelly December 29, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Would love to be out of IB this is the dumbest program on earth! Lacking in so many areas! Talk about dumbing down at its finest Focus is all on learner profiles and global citizenship versus state mandated test The kids don't even face the teacher in a Pyp classroom truthaboutib.com


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