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Educators put heads together

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 01:24 PM

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Getting any group to agree on anything can be easier said than done — whether you're talking movie choices or pizza toppings, much less choosing three education topics to tackle in an afternoon.

But school officials from Hernando and Pasco school districts along with Pasco-Hernando Community College representatives did that and more Thursday during their first joint meeting at the college campus here.

Following hours of discussion, the group not only chose topics, but appointed representatives to meet and discuss them to the joint benefit of students in K-12 or post-graduation studies.

The three chosen areas were:

The group of about 19 met at 11 a.m. and, out of a list of more than 10 education talking points — not including those the group could add themselves — agreed on those three on which they could best collaborate.

PHCC President Kathy Johnson said, in light of expected budget cuts, it was more important for the groups to focus on policy matters and ways all three groups could share resources.

"For example, with the schools already having culinary or automotive resources in the schools, it makes more sense for us to share those facilities then, say replicate them here on the campus," Johnson said. "There's a wide variety of ways we can all save money by pooling our resources together."

For dual enrollment, PHCC officials revealed that the college currently has 2,171 students between Pasco and Hernando enrolled in the program. Students enrolled to take the courses — which count for college and high school credit — don't have to pay tuition.

Last year, PHCC waived more than $2 million in tuition fees.

Although the program has become popular, it's also become a drain on the college's finances.

In the past, the state provided about 75 percent of the college's operating budget, so it was relatively easy to absorb those tuition-free high school students, said Steven Schroeder, general counsel and executive of governmental relations for the college.

Now, though, just 47 percent of the budget comes from state allocations.

Wilton Simpson, a PHCC trustee, said the main benefit of Thursday's get-together was to not only discuss thoughts and ideas, but delve into the matters.

"The devil is in the details, and that's something we don't usually get to do, is get below the surface and really delve into these topics," Simpson said.

Hernando County Schools Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said most of the topics are nothing new to those who met. However, the meeting gave them the opportunity to meet face-to-face and form groups to tackle these three matters separately and come up with joint solutions.

In attendance from Hernando County were Blavatt, school board Chairwoman Cynthia Moore, Assistant Superintendent Sonya Jackson and board member James Yant.

Johnson said it's unknown when the group will meet again. First, a survey will be sent out to allow the meeting attendees a chance to give feedback on how often they would like to get together.

She said the important thing is that district and college representatives were given the opportunity to put their heads together. From there, it's up to them to carry on the discussion points.

"We got things started," Johnson said. "We call this a win-win-win, because all three groups will benefit."

Pasco Tribune reporter Ronnie Blair contributed to this story. (352) 544-5271

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