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Pons pushes for sales tax renewal, K-8 schools

FILE PHOTO
Leon Superintendent Jackie Pons

By Lynn Hatter

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-994425.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons held a town hall meeting Thursday at Bond Elementary School. Lynn Hatter reports the superintendent is pushing a renewal of a half-cent sales tax and he's also considering expanding the grade levels at some schools.

Pons spoke to about 250 parents, teachers and district officials as part of his monthly Community Conversations. The town-hall style meetings are meant to keep parents informed and up-to-date on what's happening in the district. One issue the district is facing is the expiration of a half-cent sales tax Leon voters approved almost a decade ago. It's up for renewal on the 2012 ballot and Pons says that money is needed now more than ever.

"I think it's a good story to tell. If this community wouldn't have invested in the future, I don't think we wouldn't have gotten through these 65-million dollars in budget cuts. So it speaks volumes about this community, how they feel about education and I just want to thank them for that. We're looking forward to passing it again."

Pons also took questions about the future of one the district's schools, Woodville Elementary. The district is considering whether to expand the school to include 6ththrough 8th grade.

"The K-8 model is a good model, we're studying it to see how it would work at other schools, we have it currently at Ft. Braden. It's under consideration at Woodville as an alternative to what they're doing. Woodville Elementary has made a lot of improvement lately and so we're looking at budget, how much it would cost to do this and how many students would attend."

The district is considering the expansion of the school to hold on to students, who, after the fifth grade, tend to go to a private school. The loss of those students to a private entity means a loss of money to a district since it is funded based on the number of students it has. Leon Schools have lost more than 65-million dollars in the past few years due to state budget cuts.