OLDSMAR – Few things in life are guaranteed — death, taxes and snow-free Florida winters immediately come to mind.
Until recently, the Pinellas County School Board holding its monthly meetings at the school district administration building on Fourth Street Southwest Largo was another absolute constant.
But that changed last month, as the board held its Jan. 29 meeting in Oldsmar’s City Council Chambers building, the first time the school board meeting had been held in a different location since moving there years ago from the district’s former headquarters next to Clearwater High School.
“We’re trying this out this year, going to different locations — here today and in Gulfport in April—to spread the meetings around the county and make them more accessible to a wider section of the public,” Lisa Wolf, a Pinellas Schools spokeswoman, explained.
Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis said city officials were thrilled by the opportunity.
“They were looking to do a road show and we were tickled to death to have them here,” Bevis said after delivering the meeting’s opening remarks. “Any chance we get to showcase our city, our facilities and our amazing staff and bring them to north county, I think it’s great.”
Based on the turnout, the decision to relocate the meeting was a success.
The agenda was as full as the room, with items involving sports, mental health and campus renovations as well as several presentations, including a rundown of their school’s academic and athletic accomplishments by Palm Harbor University seniors Mackenzie Burke and Meghan Christopher.
“I can genuinely say that this school has made me feel so prepared for college, and the teachers are the most supportive teachers that I could ever speak of,” Burke said. “I have nothing but good things to say about this school.”
Christopher agreed, stating she was able to handle a course load of eight advanced college prep classes because “the teachers and staff have pushed us to try our hardest.”
By the time the two-hour meeting wound down, reactions to the temporary relocation began coming in, from board members and attendees, and they were overwhelmingly positive.
“I want to thank Mayor Bevis for allowing us to be here, along with his staff that have assisted us with the preparation of making this a very hospitable visit,” Superintendent Michael Grego said.
Board member Lisa Cane also thanked Oldsmar officials for hosting the meeting in their “beautiful facility” and she praised the community for its support of city schools.
“The community has stepped up in so many amazing and wonderful ways to support Oldsmar elementary, providing them with all sorts of technology and additional equipment needed for the students,” Cane said. “Not only the city, but the parents, the PTA and the community surrounding that school has been absolutely phenomenal.”
School Board Chair Rene Flowers thanked the mayor and the rest of City Council and the community for allowing the board to conduct it first meeting outside of the Pinellas County School Board administration building. “You have opened up your arms to us and made us feel so welcome,” Flowers said, adding, “Thank you all so very much.”
She added: “For staff, I know this was a lot. But I think this really showed tonight that coming out into the community helps us connect better and have that conversation and dialog.”
Married Dunedin High School teachers Carole Robinson and husband Brandt, both teachers at Dunedin High School, said they welcomed the north county stop.
“We serve as co-chairs of the Human and Civil Rights Committee for the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, so we go to every meeting to update the board on what we’re doing,” Brandt Robinson said. “I think if they’re really serious about uniting different communities and addressing all the disparate problems, going around the county like this is the first step towards that.”
Carole Robinson added: “We teach in Dunedin and live in Palm Harbor, so this was really convenient for us. I would still go to Largo, but this was nice.”