SARASOTA — Following a rocky start to its meeting, the Sarasota County School Board looked at three items of new business.

The board looked at its 2019-20 and 2020-21 calendars for the school year, seeking input.

The calendars for the coming year will start earlier, beginning on Aug. 12 in 2019 and Aug. 20 in 2020. Students would end the school year May 29.

The district has pushed to have an earlier start date to align better with neighboring Charlotte and Manatee counties.

The proposed calendars will have a full week of school off for the Thanksgiving holiday beginning in 2019.

Superintendent Todd Bowden commented during the Superintendent’s Report saying that the Thanksgiving week is when the district sees the highest number of absences for students.

Board Member Shirley Brown said she hopes the committee who worked on the calendar made sure that the graduation dates were later than exam dates.

She said this past year students were taking exams after graduation dates.

The board passed the calendars and the approval to advertise them unanimously.

One of the items the board looked at was the approval or denial of the Dreamers Academy Charter School in North Sarasota County. The school planned to target English-as-a-second-language students, and also students who wanted to learn Spanish.

Dreamers Academy planned to have a dual-language curriculum to serve ESOL students. The charter school had applied to the district in the spring before pulling its application to fix some of the errors found by the district.

The school reapplied in the fall. According to Bowden, the school had no parts on its application that “did not meet expectations.”

Overall, 85 percent of the application met all the criteria needed by the district to open as one of its charter schools, Bowden said.

Bowden said the application had also been updated to remove a dual-language lottery system, which the board was worried about because it may be seen as discrimination.

Among the speakers for gender identity at the Election Night meeting, there were several speakers who begged the board to approve the charter application.

The board discussed the item with board member Eric Robinson, who said he wasn’t planning to support the application because of the curriculum. Robinson is concerned students would not be spending enough time reading and it would hurt the students Florida Standard Assessment scores.

While Robinson was not a fan of the curriculum, board member Shirley Brown said the district has trouble with closing the achievement gap, especially when it comes to ESOL students.

The achievement gap is caused when students are not reading at or above grade level when a student reaches the third grade.

Like Brown, Vice Chair Jane Goodwin and board member Caroline Zucker agreed with the school being an opportunity to close the achievement gap for those ESOL students.

Chair Bridget Ziegler fully supported the school, saying she had concerns until the school changed its lottery system. Ziegler added she had been worried about the possible discrimination with the two-part lottery system the school was looking to use.

The charter school was approved 4 to 1 with Robinson dissenting.

The final item on the agenda was the progression plan for students. The progression plans deals with different topics such as ESOL education, transferring in and out of Sarasota County Schools, curriculum for all grades, among other topics.

The progression plan was on the Oct. 23 agenda but was pulled to clean up some of the language.

The progression plan passed unanimously with little comment from the board.

The Sarasota County School Board will meet at 8:30 a.m. for its monthly workshop followed by its 3 p.m. regular board meeting on Nov. 20 in the board chambers, 1980 Landings Blvd., Sarasota.

Meetings and workshops are broadcast live on The Education Channel, Comcast channel 20 and Frontier channel 33. Meetings and workshops are also streamed live on the district’s website


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