Avoiding student loan debt with former students

Q: Where do you go to school? Why did you choose that school?

A:  Sophie Sajecki (‘18): I chose UCF because of how large it is, how it’s close to home but not too close, and because of the opportunities in the Orlando area for internships and jobs for my major! 

A: Lindsey Hoskins (‘19): University of Florida. UF has one of the best Journalism and Communications colleges in the country. I love the beautiful campus and the constant motivation to strive for academic excellence.

A: Mileen Meyer (‘18): I now attend Emory University. I chose Emory because it is a very prestigious school and they gave me an amazing amount of financial aid which made it affordable enough for me to get an education there.

A: Nick Piccione (18): University of Florida. I have always wanted to attend UF, and it’s the best school in the state to go to, especially being pre-health. The cost was definitely an added bonus to attending UF, but this was the only school I ever seriously considered going to. 

A: Chandler Dempsey (‘17): Florida State University

A: Meghan Bertig (‘17): Florida State University. FSU had everything I was looking for in a college-everything from academics to sports teams, campus life and ways to have fun! The campus is beautiful and the resources available for student success are unbeatable. 

Q: How important was cost when deciding where to go to school?

A: Sophie Sajecki: The cost of UCF was not a huge factor in my decision to come here, but I knew that I wanted to stay in-state since I could utilize in-state tuition and my Florida Prepaid money that my parents had been saving since I was a baby.  

A: Lindsey Hoskins: Cost wasn’t that much of a deciding factor because I did receive scholarships to the other colleges I applied to, but not UF. The University of Florida was always my dream school and I wanted to go there no matter what if I was accepted. 

A: Mileen Meyer: Cost was a big factor when I was deciding where to go to school. Since Emory is out of state and a private institution, I know it would be very expensive. I was awarded the Bright Futures scholarship for a Florida university, but that only covers tuition, so I would have still paid room and board. At that point, it was all about how much Emory could offer in financial aid, otherwise I would have to stay in state.

A: Chandler Dempsey: Moderately important

A: Meghan Bertig: Cost was a huge deciding factor. By attending college in Florida at one of the top 20 public universities in the nation, I was able to attend college tuition-free. That return on investment is hard to resist. 

Q: (For bright futures students) What did you do to earn your scholarship?

A: Sophie Sajecki: All throughout high school, I volunteered a lot in my free time. My mom worked at an elementary school so I went there a lot to collect hours, and I was involved in a lot of clubs on campus that required service hours and gave service hour opportunities. Towards my Junior year was when I volunteered the most, and this worked towards my advantage when it came to bright futures. In addition to service hours, test scores are required. If I would’ve done one thing differently, I definitely would have taken the SAT one more time to get the top bracket of bright futures. I was only 20 points away! 

A: Lindsey Hoskins: It depends on each individual’s situation, but the biggest stressor for me was volunteer hours because sometimes I would forget to log them and it was a challenge to balance community service, academics, and extracurricular activities. I studied for my SAT only and did not participate in any ACT tests. I knew from the time I was a freshman I needed the full-paid option, so I worked really hard to accomplish the GPA, service hours, and test scores. Bright Futures is a huge reason why I’m able to go to a state university and I’m very thankful the state of Florida provides that opportunity to students.

A: Mileen Meyer: To earn the bright futures scholarship, I needed 100 community service hours and a high SAT score. Interact club and volunteering at Generations Christian Church were the two major sources of my volunteer hours. I volunteered at Generations every Wednesday and Sunday for their middle school and Sunday school services, and I went to most of the major community service opportunities that Interact provided for us. As far as my SAT score, I used Khan academy and practice books/tests to learn tips for during the exam. 

A: Nick Piccione: To earn my bright futures scholarship I submitted the test scores which I received on my ACT and SAT tests as well as completing over 100 hours of volunteering at a nonprofit called Kids In Crisis where my aunt was employed.  Bright Futures was something I knew about because of my older sister and it was heavily discussed at Mitchell by both peers and staff.

A: Chandler Dempsey: In order to earn my Bright Futures scholarship I dedicated my time to participating in extracurricular activities through clubs within the school, competitive sports, and volunteering off of campus. In addition, I challenged myself academically to earn the best grades and test scores possible.

A: Meghan Bertig: To earn my scholarship, I had to maintain a 3.5 GPA, complete 100 community service hours, and have a weighted ACT score of 29. By doing this in high school, I was able to save tens of thousands of dollars.

Q: How did you find out about scholarship opportunities?

A: Sophie Sajecki: A lot of the scholarships I found were on my own. I did the work required for bright futures on my own, I researched other scholarships in my free time and I did the work necessary to get scholarships all by myself. The summer before I left for school I went on websites such as collegexpress.com and even the UCF scholarship website to apply for everything I was eligible for. Free money is free money so I didn’t mind spending time on that!

A: Lindsey Hoskins: I used the school’s website to apply for the Pasco Education Foundation Scholarships and local scholarships as well. I encourage students to do lots of research because there are many big companies who give out scholarships that I was unaware of.

A: Mileen Meyer: I found scholarship opportunities through resources at Mitchell, as well as through the Pasco Education Foundation. The Pasco Education Foundation has resources for students to use that filter the scholarships so they can apply for those that fit their circumstances best. Even though it may seem like you probably won’t get selected for a scholarship, they offer so many that a fair amount of students do get selected. So, apply for all of the scholarships that you qualify for, because even a few hundred dollars helps to cover textbooks and other expenses. 

A: Chandler Dempsey: Most of my scholarship opportunities came through participation in organizations that I belonged to. Outside of that, Mrs.Chamberlin was very helpful in providing me with resources to find scholarships and how to apply for them.

Q: What study skills did you use to keep your GPA up in high school?

A: Sophie Sajecki: In high school, I utilized a lot of unique methods of studying since the typical ‘read through my textbooks’ method never really worked well for me. I found it best to make quizlets, rewrite my notes from class, and even make kahoots with my friends that we would get together and take at a friend’s house or even at Starbucks! Studying in unique ways definitely helped me maintain a good GPA and made me prepare for college in ways I didn’t think that it would. 

A: Lindsey Hoskins: I always made school my first priority because I knew I had to work very hard in order to get into UF and afford to go to college. I created many quizlets in high school to study and even had to give up entire weekends for academics. Communication with your classmates and teachers is super important so you can fully utilize your resources around you. 

A: Mileen Meyer: What really helped my studying was reading the textbook and annotating or taking extra notes. I know it can be tedious, but the textbooks really go into more depth than what can be covered in a 50-minute class. Sometimes you might read something and realize that you misunderstood the concept in class or didn’t understand it as well as you thought you did. Reading reinforces the information in your brain and ensures you cover all of the bases.

A: Nick Piccione:  I was always that kid that did his work when they were supposed to. If it was recommended we read the textbook but not necessarily required, I always did it, that is until I got to my senior year. People often focused too much on high school socially, it’s hard to accept in the moment, but as a college student I can say with full confidence that school should always be your number one priority. I rarely speak to people from high school now, I’ve made so many relationships up here in Gainesville that are gonna continue past graduation.

A: Chandler Dempsey: I am a firm believer in taking notes by hand and rewriting those notes to fully absorb the material. I would take notes in class and then condense them into a smaller study sheet of the key information. My friends and I would also frequent Starbucks go through study guides together so that we could talk about the information and act as a ‘teacher’ for one another. I also think that repetition is key, so rereading my notes and doing practice problems was essential to my study routine.

A: Meghan Bertig: In high school, I was extremely organized when it came to assignment due dates and test dates. From knowing these dates, I was able to block off study time accordingly to make sure I gave myself enough time to study.

Q: Who gave you advice on avoiding student loan debt? What advice did they give you?

A: Sophie Sajecki: My parents gave me the best advice on avoiding student loan debt. I am so thankful for them because they saved for my college when I was growing up, because their parents hadn’t done so for them. I use Florida prepaid every semester to pay for my classes and my rent. I use my bright futures money for books, sorority dues and extra money to spend on myself. Bright futures is the smartest thing that high school students should try to receive. 

A: Lindsey Hoskins:  My parents always told me that it was common for people to take out loans, but we obviously did not want that to be a reality. Mrs. McNulty really helped me in the application and post-acceptance process due to her experience with a daughter already in college. Even though it may be exhausting applying for scholarships, it’s definitely worth it in the end. 

 A: Mileen Meyer: I don’t really remember who gave me advice, sorry! I just know I didn’t want to take out loans, especially not in undergraduate school (if I could avoid it).

A: Nick Piccione: I had several teachers that would discuss college decisions my senior year. most notably Mr. Scott and Mrs. McNulty would talk about the costs of college and how important it is to minimize the amount of student debt you acquire. 

A: Chandler Dempsey: I honestly do not remember receiving any solid advice on student loan debt in high school. Most teachers and advisors said to try and avoid it if possible. However, as a senior in college – a little late in the game – my personal finance professor, Calhoun, gave us some great tips on avoiding and minimizing student loan debt. First, avoid it if you can; obviously, not everyone is able to do so. Second, if you need a loan, choose loans that are subsidized. This means that interest is not collected on the loan while you are in school, and begins to collect only after you graduate and begin making payments. Third, only use the loan to finance academic needs. In other words, do not use the loan to fund a nicer apartment, eating out, or other fun purchases. Lastly, pay the entirety of the loan off as soon as possible; do not miss payments and pay the full amount each month, not just the minimum.

A: Meghan Bertig: My dad gave me advice. He went to an out-of-state college and in turn, had to pay off his tuition after graduation. He told me to consider life after graduation and whether I thought a school would be worth paying for with my future salary. In the end, I made the choice to go to a school where tuition was free for me while still earning an extremely respectable degree. 

Q: Did you receive a scholarship to attend the college you chose specifically? What was it for (academics, athletics, etc.)?

A: Sophie Sajecki: Nope!

A: Lindsey Hoskins: I did not receive a scholarship from UF but I received a couple thousand of dollars through academic and involvement based scholarships through Mitchell. 

A: Mileen Meyer: No, I just received the Pasco Education Foundation Scholarship and financial aid/grants from FAFSA and the University.

A: Nick Piccione: The University of Florida did not offer me any scholarships

A: Chandler Dempsey:  Yes, I received a scholarship to attend Florida State. I received the University Freshman Scholarship, granting me financial aid for a portion of my tuition each semester. This scholarship is based on academic merit and takes GPA and test scores into consideration.

Q: What advice would you give a high school student on how to gain scholarships?

A: Sophie Sajecki:  Apply for everything and anything! Pasco county has a website of scholarship opportunities, your future school should have a website of scholarship opportunities, and there are many resources that are available to incoming college freshmen. You can never be too prepared or apply yourself too much. Do everything you can to take advantage of free money!

A: Lindsey Hoskins: Try and get involved in clubs throughout high school and work hard at academics because that’s what scholarship givers are looking for. Also, some clubs at Mitchell offer money to those who made great contributions. Make sure to do your research early and apply even if you don’t think you’ll receive a scholarship. 

A: Mileen Meyer: My advice is to have someone go over your essays multiple times. It’s really easy to miss simple details or to think what you wrote makes sense when it really doesn’t. Always read your essays out loud and/or have someone read them with you to make sure grammar is correct and the information flows appropriately and fits well together. (Mrs. McNulty is a wonderful person to start with when going over your essays. She really helped me organize my essays and stay within the word count!) Also, apply for any scholarship that you qualify for. Even if it’s only for a few hundred dollars, that money really helps with textbook expenses. 

A: Nick Piccione: Get your bright futures, seriously. Don’t put off studying for the ACT or SAT if you know you need to put in the work to get the necessary scores. School needs to be your main focus in high school, if it’s not you’ll end up at a college you didn’t want to go to and regret choosing to hang out with people over getting good grades. It sounds nerdy but it’s true. If your friends feel like they aren’t more important than your work, they’re right, and if they don’t like you because of that get new friends

A: Chandler Dempsey: In attempting to gain scholarships, it is vital that you exhaust all of your resources. Talk to advisors, teachers, and club leaders to see if they know of any scholarships associated with specific programs or in relation to universities that they have attended and you may be interested in. Aside from asking around, it is essential to do your research. There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships available, even some for seemingly random things like being left-handed or having orange hair, that are waiting to be exhausted by incoming college freshman. I would also recommend applying for as many scholarships as you can because it will only serve to benefit you in the long run. But, before you rush out and apply for every scholarship that you qualify for, make sure your responses to scholarship prompts are of quality; after all, you are in competition with your peers and you want to stand out – but only in a good way.

Tampa Bay’s spooktacular haunted house scene

‘Tis the season to be spooky, and there are plenty of opportunities to get a good fright as well as participate in a good cause around the Bay.

Maddi Smyth- Opinion Editor

   Haunted houses pop up left and right now that the spooky season has begun, so the sheer number of attractions to choose from can be overwhelming. In order to haunt the local scene, horror fans should look no farther than the Tampa Bay area.

   One of the closest and most popular attractions, the Scream-A-Geddon Horror Park, is in nearby Dade City and features 6 different fright opportunities in one consolidated location. With a 4.6 out of 5 stars and more than 2,000 reviews on Google, Scream-A-Geddon seems to be a fan-favorite. From the classic walk-through haunted house to zombie paintball games, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this event. 

   For horror fans looking for something a little more compact, there is the Murder House in the Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City, off of Channelside Drive. It features a walk-through scare tour with actors and gruesome scenes for those with darker tastes. But this haunted house also uses some of its events as fundraisers for Big Cat rescue. That means participants can donate money to support large rescue cats such as lions and tigers while they enjoy the attraction.

   Those looking for a brand-new fright might try Scarehouse Pinellas, located off Creekside Drive in Largo. This is the second annual opening of this young haunted attraction and it features eight different dates to enjoy the haunted house, from October 4 all the way up to October 26. The haunted operation is 10,000 square feet of entertainment that is partnered with SPCA Tampa Bay to raise money for stray cats and dogs with the power of fear.

   Whether you enjoy a good fright or are looking for something less terrifying to enjoy your fall season, there is a haunted house for everyone here in Tampa.


Halloween: to move it or not?

 A dilemma arises as students share their opinions on whether Halloween should be moved to the following Saturday or to leave the holiday to be celebrated on October 31. 

Tori Marjan- Staff Reporter 

As Halloween comes closer, the debate on whether or not it should be postponed to the last Saturday of October sparks up conversation again. Every Halloween, kids and teenagers dress up and go out or trick or treat, but this may become very inconvenient because it takes place on a weekday. Moving Halloween to the following Saturday would resolve problems, parents and teenagers deal with, when having a holiday on a weekday.  

Some say Halloween shouldn’t be moved at all for the inconvenience and the fact that it ruins all the spirit.  Moving Halloween would cause issues for some families who are not able to run their holiday during the weekend.

“I don’t think Halloween should be moved to the Saturday after because the whole reason everyone gets excited for the month of October is Halloween. If it was moved to November or the last Saturday of the month, the whole month would be pointless and no one would have spirit,” Ciara O’Shea (‘21) said. 

Moving Halloween’s date would make the holiday much safer, stress-free, and longer for others. Students with lots of homework wouldn’t need to stress about getting it all done after going out at night. Parents with work the next day would not have to worry about their kids as much either compared to if it were Saturday, they would be more aware of what is going on. This would create a much safer environment for parents and kids. 

“It should be moved because who wants to stay out at night celebrating Halloween just to wake up the next day and go to school or work? No one. It also would be a good idea because Sunday would be a nice recovery day to give people time to rest. Moving it would give a nice end to the month of October,” Sophia Jimenez (‘22) said. 

“I think Halloween should be moved to the last Saturday so I’d have school off the next day and be able to stay up without worrying about being behind on homework,” Nicholas Villicana (‘23) said. 

The debate on which side has the better points still stands as an online petition is still getting signed by those who want Halloween to be moved. If you’re interested in signing this petition you can go to : https://www.change.org/p/president-of-the-united-states-join-the-saturday-halloween-movement 

15 seasons and counting; let the drama continue

After hitting the 15 seasons checkpoint, the producers of Grey’s Anatomy decided to take on another season of production, students share their opinions about the show.

Emma Rogers-Business Manager

   “Grey’s Anatomy” first aired on Mar. 27, 2005 producing 16 seasons and becoming the eighth longest running scripted primetime TV series in the US. ABC premiered the first episode of season 16 on Sep. 26. The show brands itself as a medical drama series that focuses on a group of young doctors at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, who began their careers at the facility as interns. For years, there has been debates on whether or not the series is worth watching. Mackenzie Henderson (‘22) has been an avid watcher of the series, but even big fans can have negative opinions.

   “I think it’s a great show; I love all the characters on [Grey’s Anatomy.] It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. I have watched it up to season 15, it was amazing. Of course I will watch the new season because the last episode of season 15 was a cliffhanger. [However,] I don’t think they should’ve kept going because 16 seasons is a lot,” Henderson said.

   As Grey’s Anatomy progressed, story lines picked up to more dramatic interactions between the staff and interns as well as the more precise medical procedures the main characters had to practice. However, the show had many loopholes in how they proceeded to continue after a character’s death, and left out the realism of an actual hospital.

   “Grey’s Anatomy is overrated because it is heavily influenced by the media and doesn’t live up to the standard that it is set at. [Grey’s Anatomy] was terrible for the fact that it killed or harmed almost every main character. The show should definitely end, so newer shows that haven’t gained much attraction can be recognized,” Ethan Rogers (‘23) said.

   After hitting the 15 seasons checkpoint, the producers of Grey’s Anatomy decided to take on another season of production to continue to add the current storyline the last episode left off. 

   “I love how there is always something new going on in the show and it is not the same plot all 16 seasons. It helps that I am also interested in the medical fields. I feel like they should definitely continue the show because there is always more to add to the series and new drama with the main characters,” Brenna Peterson (‘21) said.

   To find the new season of Grey’s Anatomy, watch on ABC on Thursday nights at 8 or on Hulu on Fridays after the premiere of the episode every Thursday. Interested in the medical field or deciding your own thoughts on the show, catch up on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube Tv. 

Electing to stay informed

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, students prepare to learn as much accurate information about the election process and the candidates

Richard Daley- Sports Editor

   As the 2020 presidential election approaches, students search for information regarding the election process, important issues, and the candidates. The Democrats plan to hold 12 debates including a wide range of candidates, with the fifth on 11/20, to see who poses the best threat to defeat incumbent President Donald Trump in the general election.

   “I definitely think that the amount of people running shows how largely the Democratic Party is in opposition of Donald Trump. I think that his election sort of started a fire for people to believe that they could be the president. A lot of people who you don’t see in politics like Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer who aren’t already involved in government are throwing their names in because they think that they could do something because of their displeasure with Donald Trump and his election,” Amber Seaberg (‘20) said.

   In recent years, online information became a crucial aspect of politics. However, the use of one sided sources and false news sites leads people to create political biases, so it is important to check sources before forming an opinion.

   “Your sources impact your beliefs, so if you want to stay as unbiased as possible make sure you are reading unbiased sources. You can’t be unbiased if you only listen to CNN or Fox News. Diversify a bit, find neutral reporters like the Economist or Wall Street Journal,” Nicholas Fernandez (‘20) said.

   Forming an opinion about candidates can be difficult for students interested in the election. It is important to know about the candidates’ platforms, or the aims and goals of that individual.

   “Obviously students can check out the different candidates’ websites. Maybe the best thing I’ve seen on the Democratic candidates is The New York Times asked the same 18 questions to 21 different Democratic candidates and they videoed their responses. If you really want to know the difference between the Democratic candidates and how they at least appear on camera, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen,” Mr. John Scott (FAC) said.

This can be found at:


    The presidential election offers students the chance to learn more about the democratic process that the United States is renowned for and also gives them the chance to understand how other citizens in this country feel. Overall, it is best that people interested in the election are informed and try to prevent bias as much as possible.

Hurricane Irma Delays Homecoming

Trinity experienced loss of power, flooded streets, and downed trees. The district cancelled school for six days and the community rallied together to clean up after the storm. Details of Homecoming dates to be announced once school resumes September 18th.

Red or Blue: Which one are you?

By Max Trettin

   During the 2015-16 school year, Isabel Bradley (‘18) noticed around the campus. She brought it upon herself to create the Young Democrats Club.

“A friend and I were walking around campus, and people weren’t educated on the platforms of political issues. They knew who they liked, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but they didn’t really know why. When we tried to talk about it, they couldn’t explain it. We started the club because we wanted to bring more political education to the campus,” Bradley said.

Grace Phillips (‘18) and Paulina Keim (‘18) got together and
also realized the lack of political clubs in the school.

   “It got started when Grace and I were taking the world history exam and we were thinking that it would be really cool for a Republicans club on campus, and asked Ms. Hampton if she wanted to be the sponsor,” Keim said.

The students recruited advisers Ms. Heather Daniel (Young Democrats), and Ms. LuAnne Hampton (Young Republicans). Friends, yet political rivals, the advisers sought to aid Bradley and Phillips in the creation of the clubs.

“[Ms. Daniel] wanted to help better the education in politics for other students. Within the club we’re going to talk about political topics, we’re going to talk about both sides; just kind of get into discussion of what we think about both sides, how to stay open-minded, and just learn more about each party,” Bradley said.

   As presidents of their clubs, Bradley, Phillips and Keim endeavor daily to spread political beliefs throughout the campus. When the presidential election is complete by mid- November, both the Young Republicans and Democrats planned to continue meeting.

“We’re going to get more involved in the community.
One of our big focuses are the veterans in our area, and we
also want to get involved in the Pasco Republicans, like the older Republicans, and try to help them do their thing. We’ll get involved with local politics, and just kind of serve our community in any way we can,” Phillips said.

   Both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans share similar goals, to expand knowledge of politics throughout the campus.

“We’re still going to be talking about popular topics within politics. Whichever president gets in, we’ll talk about it.

We’re going to have education discussions and learn more about who our president is and what the platform is, and how we can make our future better,” Bradley said.

To participate in the initiatives presented by the Young Republicans and Young Democrats, students can talk to the advisers. The Young third Wednesday of each month in room 705, and the Young Democrats meet the second and fourth Friday of each month in room 811.

   In addition to this, they have debate parties and discussions where they watch the debate and discuss it amongst themselves. The approximate participate in both of these clubs strongly encourage students to get more involved in local politics, and their community in its entirety.

The Melting Pot

By Josh Wagner

   America, often referred to as the “melting pot” of the world, serves as a home to people from different countries, races, and religions. From its beginnings, this country has been a place of immigration, diversity, and cultural uniqueness. Students at our school decided to bring that diversity here, and The Melting Pot Club was born.

“I noticed that our school wasn’t really diverse at all, and I thought it would be cool to have a club that promotes culture, different backgrounds, and diversity,” Nurah Koney- Laryea (‘17), founder of The Melting Pot Club, said.

This recently established club month in room 811 at 3:00 p.m., to discuss, present, and plan out their actions.

   “[At each meeting] discuss represents and ways to get support for that country. At the end we take a vote, and whichever country gets the most votes is who we donate all the money we have collected throughout the year to,” Hunter Tobey (‘18), a Melting Pot

The club not only promotes student awareness of many other cultures, but also helps countries that need support and a helping hand.

   “The main thing we are going donate, not necessarily just straight money, but supplies: medical supplies, food, stuff like that,” Tobey said.

The Melting Pot Club is stewed up with students and numerous cultures. The club has students representing Puerto Rico, India, Greece, Ghana, and many more.

“I am Greek-Italian, but I like to show my Greek side more because it is a less represented culture at the school,” Tia Marchiselli (‘17) said.

The club is a way for students to shed light onto their culture and heritage, which may not be as easily shown in the school otherwise. The Melting Pot Club offers many ways to get involved in something other than schoolwork or sports, discovering cultures apart from one’s own.

   “I think joining the club is a good idea if you want to learn more about other cultures, other backgrounds, and diversity,” Koney-Laryea said.

Students that want to know more about joining the club can see Ms. Daniel in room additional information.

Will you be in the zone?

Will you be in the Zone? An interview with Chris Williams regarding the potential rezoning of Pasco’s west side secondary schools.

September 7, 2016

by Raleigh Illig


Q. Please introduce yourself.

A. I am Chris Williams, the Director of Planning for the district. Our department is responsible for anything to do with land. We are also tasked with projecting how many students will attend our schools 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and to use that information to set the budget for next year. In December, I have to project how many students are going to be here next year, and the budget hinges on that. We also have the task of handling rezoning when that’s applicable. That’s what we are looking to do here in this area.

Q. Who made the original decision to form a committee to rezone students out of SSMS and JWMHS? When and how was this decision made?

A. The decision to move forward with rezoning is made by the superintendent and staff, including myself.  We look at a variety of factors such as current capacity of schools, current and future growth, how much growth can the schools currently receiving that growth absorb, and when future capacity will be built and where.  Once the decision is made to move forward with rezoning then we form a rezoning committee.

Q. Many students attend JWMHS for only part of the school day, electing to take online classes from home and/or attend PHSC for Dual Enrollment courses. Has the student enrollment data period-by-period been taken into consideration when deeming JWMHS overcrowded to the point that rezoning was necessary?

A. Period-by-period enrollment was not taken into consideration.  Typically there is not a large percentage of students doing this.  Prior, to moving to a 10-period day on the Wiregrass Ranch High School campus, we actually tried to do a “hybrid” model.  The plan was to have a significant number of students sign up to take classes online at home and come to campus for part of the day.  This would free up more space on campus.  We began taking sign-ups and could not get enough students signed up to make a difference.  We therefore implemented the 10-period day plan currently in effect at Wiregrass Ranch High.

Q. Has the district considered separating the start/end times of the middle and high school so that the traffic at drop off and pick up can be alleviated?

A. There is a balance between sharing busses with middle/high school students and having separate start times to help with traffic.  Traffic is certainly an issue at SSMS/JWMHS but not the sole reason for doing a rezoning.  The main reason is due to general overcrowding on campus.  Traffic is just one of the issues.  The change in start times is evaluated every year and is something that still may very well change in the future.

Q.  Do you know who will be on the committee to determine the rezoning?

A. Every time we do a rezoning we set up a boundary committee and that boundary committee is made up of every principal from all the schools that potentially will be affected. Each of those principals picks two parents to serve as representatives on the committee. I always encourage the principals to pick two parents who are going to be objective and come in and look at data and make decisions based on that data and maps and things that we look at. And [the principal should also pick]  parents that are going to be in areas that are potentially going to be rezoned. Unfortunately, we can’t pick a parent from every area that potentially could be rezoned because then our committee will be 100 people. It gets very difficult to do that. So we pick parents representatives, and we try and pick them from a variety of communities that may be affected. Also we have district staff like myself and area superintendents and people from the superintendent staff as well as somebody from the transportation department, as well as from our exceptional student education department. That’s who makes up every committee every time we do a rezoning.

Q. Who will be “grandfathered” into the schools?

A. Absolutely for sure, next year’s seniors will be grandfathered. We will talk about whether we can or would want to try to grandfather others in as well. It really comes down to numbers, because if we can’t get an over-crowded school down, say we grandfathered next year’s 9-12th graders or next year’s 10-12th graders, but your school is still growing and is over capacity, then it’s probably not going to work. But for sure, next year’s seniors [will be grandfathered in].

Q. Who will make the decision about grandfathering?

A. The committee will take a look at it and they will actually come up with a recommendation. That’s not only the grandfathering, but the committee will figure out where they think the lines should be drawn. So they come up with that recommendation and there’s a process involved with that, where we get parent input and feedback on all those decisions, but ultimately the committee will make a recommendation that is going to go to the superintendent and that will ultimately go to the school board. So just because the committee recommends it, ultimately it’s the school board who determines that. That’s actually called creating a rule. They hold two public hearings, so two different school board meetings, a first reading and a second reading of the proposed boundary and they will also talk about the grandfathering. So there are two opportunities to go before the school board to talk about your thoughts or concerns.

Q. Do you know which areas or neighborhoods will be affected by the rezoning?

A. We do not, because that is what the committee is tasked with, looking at those particular options in all those different areas. Obviously the closer to the school you are, the less likely you will get rezoned, but proximity to the school isn’t always the driving factor. For example, if somebody lives 4 miles away from Mitchell High and lives 5 miles away from River Ridge, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically go to Mitchell High because there are other factors that go into making the boundaries.

Q. So you’re saying that you don’t know of any neighborhood that will be safe from the rezoning?

A. No, I mean I wouldn’t commit to that, no. Because there are several criteria they look at.

Q. Are there going to be any new high schools that are going to be built?

A. There will eventually, right now we are actually building a brand new high school on Old Pasco Road in the Wesley Chapel area, and that’s going to open next year and will help relieve Wiregrass Ranch High School, and Wesley Chapel High School. Also we don’t have the money to build a new middle school on that same site, we will in the future but we don’t have the money, so actually that high school we’re building is going to open as a 6-12 school next year. That is going to allow us to relieve Wiregrass Ranch High, Dr. John Long Middle, Wesley Chapel High, and Weightman Middle, and potentially a little bit off of the eastern end of Sunlake and Rushe. So that’s going to provide a lot of relief, because over there, there are no schools surrounding them that are under capacity so it’s not like we can rezone, so we’re building a brand new school. Over here we will eventually build a brand new school. We don’t have a site yet but we’re working on a site, and that site will be expensive. The new high school on Old Pasco Road costs 65 million dollars to build. We don’t have another $65 million to build a new high school. And also one of the biggest things people complain about with government is waste of money, so it’s difficult to justify to the tax payers to build a new high school to relieve Mitchell or Seven Springs Middle when there are under crowded schools surrounding it. So that’s one of the challenges we deal with. It’s difficult to do that because some people could say, “why are you wasting my tax payer dollars on a new school when you could do some rezoning and balance those populations out?” So there are plans in the future to build a new high school. But another thing to think about is, yes Mitchell High is overcrowded. You are overcrowded by about 350 students or so. Sunlake is over crowded by 200 or so students, so if you build a new high school in between, which is where we’re looking for a site, and say you built a new school for about 1800 students, how many do you have now? Yes, you helped Mitchell, so maybe Mitchell is 1,400 kids, and maybe Sunlake is 1,400 kids, and the new school is 1,000 kids. So now you have 3 schools that are way under capacity, and you have to think about all the costs involved and all the overhead involved with running 3 schools with administration, and utilities, and it gets very expensive to run schools that are only half capacity.

Q. As you look forward 5-10-20 years do you envision a date for that new high school? Is it 5, 10, 20 years away?

A. Well it’s at least 5 years away, probably closer to 10 because again, we look at a lot of things. It depends on growth, but it also depends on budget. The challenge we face as a district is it’s not just this area we have to worry about, but all along the 54 corridor, all the way from here to Wesley Chapel and into Land O’ Lakes. Wesley Chapel is a high growth area, and I know as soon as we build that high school it’s going to be at capacity, but it’s also going to have middle schoolers in it and those schools are all going to be right at capacity again. And so were going to have to be like, okay, where’s the next school going to be, and we have to keep up with the elementary schools as well, so we’re building a new elementary school to relieve Oakstead Elementary and Odessa Elementary but as soon as we build that one it’s not going to be long before you have to build additional elementary schools.

Q. Where does the money come from for the new schools?

A. People don’t realize this but the school district is very restricted on how we can get money. The school board can’t just vote to raise taxes to get more money, they’re not allowed to do that, so primary sources for capital dollars, and when I say capital dollars it means dollars that go to new schools and maintaining facilities. That’s different from operating dollars, because operating dollars go to paying salaries and the expenses for running a school, and they’re two different pots of money and we can’t mix them. So the capital dollars for the new facilities comes from property taxes, the Pennies for Pasco sales tax, and from some state dollars they give us, not enough, and also something called impact fees. The state caps how much property taxes we can collect; impact fees are whenever someone builds a new home in this area, they have to pay an impact fee. There’s a variety of impact fees. The county collects impact fees for new parks, new emergency responder stations, new roads, and we collect them for schools. So for every new house that is built we collect about $4800. Every year we are collecting $9 million in revenue for a new facility, so if you think about how much that new high school costs – $65 million – $9 million doesn’t go very far, and the property I’m looking at for a new high school is probably going to be about $5 million, just for land. So you can see $9 million per year doesn’t go very far, so the district can’t automatically say we want to raise school impact fees, it has to go to the County Commission and the County Commission has to say yes. So we are planning on taking a revised impact fee to the County Commission within the next year, and we hope that they say yes but we don’t know that for sure. By the way, currently as far as capital debt, we are over $400 million in debt, that’s half a billion dollars almost. So we can’t just go borrow money and build new schools when we are that much in debt, and that’s from all the growth from the last 10-15 years. Some people say, ‘Why can’t you just go build a new school?’ We’d love to, but it’s just not quite that easy all the time.

Q. What other schools might gain or lose students?

A. Seven Springs Middle, Mitchell High, Paul R. Smith Middle, Anclote High, Gulf Middle, Gulf High, River Ridge Middle, River Ridge High, and Ridgewood High. Not necessarily all of them, but certainly the committee will look at a variety of options and those are schools that potentially could be included. This mainly affects middle and high schools; the only thing that could affect elementary would be the feeder patterns. We like for the entire elementary school to go to the same middle school, and then that middle school to all go to the same high school, so you can keep it pure. We want to do that but it’s not always possible, and so there are some elementary school that are split, so that half the population goes to one middle school and the other half goes to another middle school, and so potentially drawing those lines could effect those patterns.

Q. So as of right now Fivay and Hudson are not in the discussion to gain students?

A. Correct. We’ve talked about it because they are under capacity, too. Then you get into this domino effect where you’re shifting students, and we decided to not go that far.

Q. So for example, kids wouldn’t go from RRHS to Hudson if they lived that far north?

A. Right. Because we did make a boundary when we opened Fivay. We did a lot of tweaking back then when we opened Fivay High School.

Q. And you mentioned Ridgewood?

A. They are on the northern border, so depending on what we do with Gulf, potentially, we could shift some students from Gulf to Ridgewood, because Ridgewood is under capacity too, which would allow Gulf to take some students from other schools, but again we’re not sure. But that would be something to look at.

Q. If current Mitchell students are zoned out of our district, will they be able to apply for school choice to come back to Mitchell?

A. There’s always opportunity to apply for school choice. The question remains whether you’d get in or not. Some people will say if you stop school choice at Mitchell you wouldn’t have over crowding. That’s not the case. If it were that easy we’d do it. But we also always want to provide opportunities for kids who have a mom or dad that teaches at the school, and they want to school choice in, we always want to give them that option. Or if they want to be in a certain program that’s not at other schools, we want kids to be able to choice in. Just like we want kids to be able to choice in for the engineering program at River Ridge, or the IB program at Gulf. If Gulf High were overcrowded, we’d still let people choice in for the IB program, or whatever program is around in that area. Now when schools are overcrowded, certainly school choice becomes very limited. But, depending on the reason you’re asking to get in – if it’s a program your zoned school doesn’t have, or if it’s because your mom or dad teaches here – those opportunities will still be there. Or if there’s some hardship reason you have to do that, all those things are looked at. People are surprised to find out that all these people choice in to Mitchell High, but we looked at a map, and as of last year, there were about 150 students living outside of Mitchell’s boundary who were attending school at Mitchell. But there were also about 150 students living in Mitchell’s zone attending school somewhere else for whatever reason. So it is about a wash when we looked at it last year.

Q. Students currently here on school choice at Mitchell will have to reapply to school choice if there is a rezoning?

A. That’s correct. Any time we do a rezoning, for any school that’s affected by the rezoning, school choice is reset. Everybody who wants to go to Mitchell that does not live in the new zone has to apply. I am not sure if seniors will have to reapply for school choice, but even if they had to apply, they would get it, because if you’re going to be a senior, you’ll be grandfathered in.

Q. What about school choice for athletes?

A. I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t know how the state changed the rules. I’m not the school choice guy.

Q.  What will happen to other schools if they become too crowded from the rezoning process?

A. Those are the things that the committee looks at. There are those who would say, ‘Rezone all the new growth, like Starkey Ranch and Asturia, to – let’s just say – River Ridge.’ Well what the committee has to look at is that will eventually be 700 students. River Ridge is under capacity, but not by that much. So then the question is, can River Ridge handle that, how many years will that take, and so if we’re going to do that to RR, well, we probably ought to look at moving some students out of River Ridge into – let’s say – Gulf. But what about the people who are now being moved out of River Ridge into Gulf, who raise their hand and say, ‘Well I’ve been here for 15 years. Why should I move out of the River Ridge boundary and go over to Gulf just to make room for new folks?’ And so those are all of the challenges that the committee has to look at and try to figure out how to balance the population so we’re not just moving the problem that Mitchell and Seven Springs have to somewhere else, but trying to figure out if River Ridge takes some of the future growth, and maybe Mitchell takes some of the future growth. And in order to do that we might need to move a few kids out of River Ridge and a few kids out of Mitchell and move them around to Anclote and Gulf, and maybe that’s the best solution. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know. That’s what the committee will take a look at.

Q. There are some people who buy their houses specifically so they can be in a certain school district because they like the way that district is run. What if there is a new person coming in and buying in so that they can go to Mitchell, and then all of a sudden where they live is rezoned for River Ridge. How would you take those people into consideration?

A. That is a great question. That is the most popular thing I hear from everybody. ‘I bought my house so I could go to this school.’ Whether it’s Mitchell or Seven Springs. Usually I tell them in a nice way, that I understand that they bought their house to go to Mitchell High. Unfortunately, so did 2200 other student families. And so, at some point we have to figure out how to rezone people. We, as Pasco County, cannot guarantee that when you move into Pasco County you are always going to stay in the same school…. If you tried to make that happen, how would that look? ‘Okay. Everybody who moved to this school district gets to stay there.’ How is that going to look as far as trying to draw a boundary? Somebody might say, ‘I have been here for 12 years. I should be allowed to go to Mitchell High.’ And so…I am from Pasco County. I said, ‘I have been here for 50 years. I live in Dade City. Does that mean I can take my son, who goes to Pasco High, which is a good school, by the way, and now displace somebody at Mitchell High, because I have lived in Pasco County for 50 years? Would that be fair? Those are the kinds of things you have to think about. Yes, I understand the argument, ‘I’ve been here for this long and I want to go here.’ I get that. But at some point you still have to do some rezoning.

Q. There are two major developments right here in the Trinity area, one right across the retention pond in the Mitchell field across from Target and Wal-Mart, and the other across the street behind the church, that right now are projected for lots and lots of homes. Do you have any idea of the timeline of those construction projects beginning? And if those will be a factor in this rezoning, or will we have the potential for Mitchell to be rezoned yet again in 5 or 10 years?

A. Certainly those developments are moving forward. They are working on approvals, and we are actually meeting with one group tomorrow [September 8th] to talk about a future sidewalk to help connect the community with some of the schools. So we would see those communities….not necessarily the one across the street, but certainly the one just to the north of here, Mr. Mitchell’s property, we would see that coming online in the next five years. Now keep in mind that the houses don’t get built all together. They might get built 100 homes at a time. And certainly we’ll take a look at that and realize that that is part of the growth is coming. Part of our job is to figure out, based on how many houses are going to be there, how many high school students will live there, and how many middle school students will be there, and that’s part of future growth. And we can give people that number. That’s actually one of the factors in our boundary committee as well, is Future Growth and Capacity. So how much room do we need to try to leave at Mitchell to accommodate those students, along with all of the other students that are coming, and do we try to spread that out between Mitchell and Anclote and River Ridge? Or do we say, ‘Okay, it all ought to come to Mitchell.’ Well, if all is going to come to Mitchell, then we have to move more kids out of Mitchell to make room. And those are the things the committee will deal with. That’s part of the challenge.

Q. How will Reduction in Force be handled? [Reduction in Force, or RIF, is the process necessary to reduce the number of teachers at a school that drops in enrollment].

A. Let’s say, and again, we haven’t decided on a number, but let’s say that 400 students get rezoned out of Mitchell and are going to be spread out to other schools. Well, that’s 400 students worth of teachers that you are no longer going to need at Mitchell High. And so what happens is, Employee Relations sits down with me and your principal, and we figure out what number we think you’re going to be at next year, in terms of number of students. And then we figure out, based on that number, how many teachers you’re going to need at Mitchell High next year. And then based on that, how many teachers are you going to lose, and then there’s a process based on things with the Union, and seniority, and retirements, and maybe there’s a teacher who wants to transfer somewhere else, and then we see how many teachers are left that we have to move and transfer somewhere else. And those teachers would get transferred potentially to those schools that are receiving those 400 students. There is a process and it happens before the start of next school year.

Q. What factors will be used in determining the new zones?

A. Okay. So I’ve gone through a couple of them. One is Future Growth and Capacity, how much room to leave at all schools to take future growth. Because if a school is not going to take future growth we can kind of make sure it is pretty full, vs. a school that might take some future growth. We want to leave some room, knowing that it’s never going to be perfect. There might still be some overcrowded conditions. We also look at Feeder Patterns. We also look at something called Subdivision Integrity. And that means we try to keep neighborhoods together. Now, people have different definitions of a neighborhood. If you live in a little gated community, that could be considered a neighborhood. But if you go to a big community like Seven Oaks in Wesley Chapel, it’s got several little gated communities. So is Seven Oaks one neighborhood? Or is it several neighborhoods? And so, some people would have different takes on that, but that’s what the committee talks through. We also talk about transportation issues, such as proximity to the schools, and how long would it take to get from this home to this school, and how do we bus that particular student? Are there any things we need to be concerned about in terms of transportation? We also look at something called Planning Integrity, and that’s looking at the years out and when we would build a new school. We don’t want to be in a situation where we rezone folks next year, and then two years from now we are back at the table doing rezoning again. So I always make the promise that we are not going to rezone you in your different school types. In other words, we’re not going to rezone you as a freshman, and then two years later come out and rezone you again. I can’t promise that you might not get rezoned in elementary school, and then over here in high school. That might happen. But we are not going to rezone you twice during your high school career. And then Feeder Patterns is another thing we look at. Those are the main criteria we look at when looking at the boundaries.

Q. Is socioeconomic balance a factor in determining school zones?

A. Yes, that is one that we also look at.  We can never achieve perfect socioeconomic balance but we do look at it and pay attention to how any rezoning may affect the balance of each of the schools.

Q. How often are zones changed?

A. Any time we build a new school. We have to make a zone for that new school, which means we pull from existing zones. And then the other way we do it is what we’re doing here at the Mitchell/Seven Springs zone. When we have schools that are overcrowded, and we have neighboring schools that are under-crowded, then let’s kind of balance those populations out. So when we’re building new schools, like between 2004 and 2010, we were building at least a new school, if not 2 or 3 every year, we were doing rezoning every year. Since 2010, we haven’t done a whole lot, but this year we are doing 3 of them. So we have the new high school/middle school being built, we have the new elementary being built, and then we have this one. It just depends on conditions.

Q. Do you know our projected numbers for next year?

A. I would have to look. We are waiting on new data to come in…..

If Mitchell High is at 2350, that means we need new portables. And there’s a cost involved with that. There are new fire codes. For example, we are at the point that we cannot add any more portables at Seven Springs Middle School, without adding what’s called a fire road. What that means is that the fire department wants to have at least some area that they can pull a fire truck and get back to that area. So you have to have a portable within so many feet of this fire road. So we can’t add any more portables. When you talk about a fire road, you’re talking about anywhere from about $250-300,000. So there’s significant cost to that. And if you have to have a fire hydrant, that’s another $100-250,000.

Q. And that’s the same reason why we wouldn’t build a second story or another building onto Mitchell?

A. Correct. We have talked about adding a classroom wing onto Mitchell and onto Seven Springs. And we potentially could do that and we might do that in the future. But what you have to be careful of, if your school was built for a certain number of students. A classroom wing would be nice because you wouldn’t have to be in portables, you could actually be in classrooms. But the thing we have to be careful of is your facility was built for so many students, and so that means your cafeteria, your media, your gym, your parking lot was built for that number of students. And so we can’t just keep adding classroom wings and portables and bring you to 3,000 students because your cafeteria can’t handle that, your gym can’t handle that, and your media can’t handle that. And the other thing we have to be careful of, after all the growth happens and everything is built out, and we have built all our new schools, we don’t want to have a situation where we’ve added a bunch of capacity onto Mitchell, and now Mitchell has capacity for, I don’t know, 2200 students, but you only have 1700. So we have to watch out for that, too.

Q. Is the district considering an audit of current students to find those students not on school choice that may live in other zones, but are attending Mitchell with falsified addresses?

A. The problem is there are a lot of legal issues with that. We have to be careful and look at what we can do legally. So we’re working with our attorney on what the options are. But it also takes resources, but if anything else, we need to look at our procedures. I am not the registration guy, but I don’t know that we always ask for proof of address any time they switch schools. And so maybe that’s something, at a minimum, that we ought to make sure that they do that if they go from Trinity Oaks to Seven Springs, and when they go from Seven Springs to here. Again, I don’t know if that’s what’s going to be decided, but they’d have to talk about how they are going to do that year to year. You are taking it at face value that people are going to tell you when they move. From my understanding, when the school suspects a student of living out of zone, they send out a letter, and within so many days they have to return proof of address. And can people falsify that? I assume they can. But then the question is, if they give you that, at that point you’re pretty much done. Students will tell you an address, and parents will give you an address. But my thought is, if a minor gives you an address, and an adult gives you an address, what are you going to do with that? Legally you have to be really careful. There are some procedures we ought to shore up and think about.

Q. But even if there were 100+ kids here illegally, that wouldn’t negate the need for rezoning?

A. Correct. And the number of kids rezoned will depend on if we think all of that growth will come to Mitchell? Or are we going to try to spread out and maybe send some to River Ridge? Then maybe you don’t need to take quite as many out of Mitchell. The committee will take a look at that and figure it out.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A. Sure. I have a guy who works for me. He is a GIS analyst. It stands for Geographic Information System. We have this really cool software where we can plot all the students on a map. And we can highlight a neighborhood and say, ‘Okay. There are 56 high school students who live there. And out of those 56 high school students there are 52 who go to Mitchell High. And so if we rezone that area, this is how many students it would affect.’ So anyway, he does these amazing maps. Our committee looks at lots of data, lots of maps, and they try to look at facts. I would say that certainly this rezoning may impact some of you. And that’s not and easy thing. I get that. Rezoning impacts families, and we understand that. Unfortunately, we can’t just keep putting more students into the same overcrowded schools, because it costs money and it creates traffic issues, and it creates problems at your school. And so we have to look at these rezoning. Try to be cognizant of what the real data is. I know people can get caught up in emotion, but the committee is trying to look at facts and data, and trying to make the best decisions for everybody, and keep in mind, that’s not an easy task. But they do a really good job.

Q. Is it a possibility that the committee might recommend that no rezoning take place for 2017-18, but rather we continue to deal with overcrowding?

A. This is ultimately up to the School Board so they could decide to do no rezoning.  I don’t anticipate the committee recommending that, although they could.  As we discussed in class, no rezoning means 50+ more students for the next few years, more portables (cost involved with that), more traffic, more lunches, etc. while neighboring schools remain under capacity.

Q. Once the committee makes its recommendation, it goes to a Parent Meeting. Traditionally, historically, have those parent meetings impacted the committee’s decision before it goes to the school board.

A. Traditionally, not. But let me clarify that. Because the committee usually does an exemplary job. Usually, anything that comes out of the parent meeting has already been discussed by the committee. Now, that being said, we are doing something new this year, and that is after the parent meeting, the committee will get back together and say, ‘Okay, did we hear anything that we didn’t discuss, or that would make us want to change the lines or change something different.’ And so then they might do that, and they might not. Again, usually the stuff they hear is what they’ve already discussed. But potentially they could. The other thing I would challenge you to do, and I tell parents this all the time. I get the fact that you don’t want to be rezoned. But if you don’t want to be rezoned, and you don’t think you should, show me a better solution that meets those criteria that we went over, that will relieve Seven Springs and Mitchell of overcrowding, that will spread out the populations and provide for future growth and capacity. Show us a better solution. I am all for looking at that. But the, ‘Don’t rezone me because I don’t want you to,’ I get that, but that’s not going to sway the School Board. That’s not going to sway the committee. What’s going to sway them is to come up with a better solution.

Thank you for having me. Any time you have questions I am happy to come back, and you can email me at cwilliam@pasco.k12.fl.us.


Middle School and High School Boundaries to be determined by Parent/Staff Committee

Boundary Committee Meeting #1

Location: Seven Springs Middle School

Date: October 5, 2016, 7:30am

Boundary Committee Meeting #2

Location: Anclote High School

Date: October 26, 2016, 8:00am

Boundary Committee Meeting #3 (If Needed)

Location: River Ridge High

Date: November 7, 2016, 8:00am

Parent Meeting
Location: River Ridge High School Performing Arts Center

Date: November 14, 2016, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Boundary Committee Meeting #3/4

Location: To Be Determined
Date: To Be Determined

School Board Actions

First Reading: Date to be Determined

Second Reading: Date to Be Determined