Does Captain Underpants Belong in Any School Library?

Take a “look inside” a few books from the Captain Underpants series on Amazon or at a library. In Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (published in 2015 after the series placed #1 on the Top Ten Most Challenged Books) a teacher in the foreword comic strip says “Let’s get nekkid” while the next page depicts male and female teachers in their undergarments.   Chapter Two goes on to demean “…grouchy old people who have way too much time…” because the use of poor language was criticized in this book series.  The author then emphasizes a list of some specific words that these grouchy old people find offensive.  The author also references “grouchy old people” with the acronym “GOP”.  The author explains how certain topics relevant to grouchy old people will be included, such as “Fox News” and aids like “laxatives” and “hemorrhoid pillows” (16).

It appears the author is playing politics to pigeonhole any critic as conservative.  Any responsible parent or concerned citizen would likely not agree with a book that exemplifies crude, inappropriate, disrespectful, and moronic behavior and language.  It also appears the author is attempting to use Fox News as a label to isolate criticism of the books to a political ideology, instead of any well-meaning parent or citizen that sees what poor examples these books set for children.  Has the author tried to turn criticism of these books into a political matter when it is really an ethical matter? Continue reading

Posted in Kids Books, Uncategorized

Bell Schedule Meeting Tonight

According to the HCPS Bell Schedule website, the last public meeting to discuss the Bell Schedule will be held at Jefferson High School tonight, 9/26, from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.

There is a summary on Tampa Bay Online highlighting some important dates regarding the Bell Schedule, including when the School Board will vote on the Bell Schedule.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hillsborough County Schools Bell Schedule: Who carries the burden for an hour-apart-school-start-time?

Bus and bell scheduling is a difficult problem given all the inputs and constraints.  It feels like the current approach by the county is a one-size-fits-all band-aid getting slapped onto a complex problem.  Increasing start times between schools may help alleviate the problem but is it actually addressing the primary issues causing late buses (a.k.a. the root cause)?

It seems like we are being told that elapsed times are too short.  In 2016, absenteeism and extended leave were mentioned as causes by a Hillsborough County Schools employee in this ABC Action News Report (time marker 1:41).  There was a driver absenteeism rate of 13% reported by Gibson Consulting Group (1, p. 140).  This year we are told it is elapsed times. The convenient answer seems to be to increase elapsed times (time between school starts or releases).

Instead of first fixing other problems, the county has proposed increasing elapsed times to an hour, shifting burden onto students and parents.  It is a disruption to quality of life, after school activities, work, finances, and productivity for many families that utilize and pay for the public school system.


¹Gibson Consulting Group, Inc., Phase II: Operational Efficiency Audit – Comprehensive Report for Hillsborough County Public Schools

Posted in HCPS Bell Schedules, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized

Hillsborough County Schools Bell Times: Was a survey “sent to all families”?

Hillsborough County Schools has asked for input from parents.  The Bell Schedule Simulator states “…A survey regarding bell times will be sent to all families during the month of September.”  We did not receive any information sent from the county on a simulator or survey.  We did discover the survey after searching the HCPS website for an update on the status of bell times.

  • The bell simulator asked parents to run simulations but to “make sure the bell times are at least one hour apart for each school type”.  This, the hour-apart-school-start-time, “standard”, forces more optimal bell times for students and families to be excluded.

Does a “standard” really make sense for all districts in the country?  Is it really a standard or is a group just calling it a “standard”?  What makes it a “standard”?  Do most schools across the state actually use this “standard” for all their times?  Some of these questions are discussed in the article Does Applying a Standard Make Sense?

  • The bell schedule survey is here.

How many other parents are not aware that this survey exists?  This is a topic important to many families.  Like the limited input requested from parents in the focus groups, parents might not be adequately informed.  Is this by design?

Will the proposed changes really secure instructional minutes for everyone?  Will buses still be late because of:

  1. the unintended consequences of bus parking provisions,
  2. staffing problems, and
  3. high absenteeism rates?

Are school start and end times being moved (to attempt hour-apart-school-start-times) causing students and families to be burdened with hiding the above late bus problems?

HCPS has a limited benchmarking chart that supports their desired changes here.  A comprehensive benchmarking by county (also considering size and district performance) was published here.   The research summarized in the comprehensive chart indicates that districts are not all utilizing this hour-apart-school-start-time.

There are other bell schedule alternatives, like example 1a, that improves the current start time between high and elementary schools.  That alternative might significantly reduce morning delays if combined with changes to improve staffing, absenteeism, and bus parking provisions.

Posted in HCPS Bell Schedules, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized

Hillsborough County School Bell Times: An Elapsed Time Increase of 196% and No Alternative?

This post discusses other possible bell schedules.  Increasing time between school bells to as much as 55-75 minutes for every area might not be optimal for all bus routes. What other creative options, like tailoring bell schedules to local needs, are being considered? When the world is increasingly customizing operations with applied mathematics, what technologies are being used to make the whole operation run more efficiently?

Are There Other Bell Schedule Options?

There are so many scenarios that could be developed; it is hard to know what is feasible without knowledge of district internal operations, requirements, and data.  A number of suggestions that seem feasible are provided in Bell Time Changes – Other Options.   These options do not even consider solutions derived from customizing times within a school type or across areas of the district.

In the April 25th Special Called Board Meeting at 2:00:15 (time marker), there is a discussion about the “very unique” way high school wraps around elementary school, also discussed here.  It is explained that when high school wraps around elementary, stretching times by a “few minutes apart” will cause high school and elementary school to “end up on top of each other in the afternoon”.  Is that correct? Are there really no other options where high school and elementary school start times can be adjusted by a few minutes to allow more time between their bells and not push their release times too close together?  Is the only other real option to stay with the current “dysfunctional” bell schedule?   There may indeed be some viable alternatives.

Continue reading

Posted in HCPS Bell Schedules, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized

Hillsborough County School Bell Times: Does Applying a Standard Make Sense?

There has been discussion around the necessity of a standard 55-75 minute elapsed time (the time between school bells). The implication here is that when the elapsed times are too short, buses are late.  While a short elapsed time may contribute to late buses, it is not the only problem.  Increasing elapsed times may not be the right or only solution.

In this post the following will be discussed:

  • Does a single standard elapsed time make sense for all schools in the district?
  • Are school districts across the state of Florida using this standard?
  • What other districts also wrap high school hours around elementary school?
  • Other recommendations to increase time between school bells.

Continue reading

Posted in HCPS Bell Schedules, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized

Last Tuesday’s Hillsborough County School Board Meeting: Was Something Overlooked?

The Hillsborough County School Board voted last Tuesday to approve proposed bell time changes for 2018-2019. The primary reason for the change appears to be resolving late bus arrivals. There was no solution for buses chronically late at schools around the county for the 2017-2018 school year. The bell time schedule discussion did not address bus driver absenteeism, vacancies, lack of substitute drivers, or buses parked at home locations overnight (1, pp. 141, 150-152). These are reasons Gibson Consulting Group, Inc. (Gibson) notes for late buses in their Phase II Report, discussed previously here.

The following question was missing from the School Board Meeting discussion:

How many late buses result from each of the following causes?

1.   Absenteeism, lack of substitute drivers and vacancies,

2.   Buses parked at home or offsite locations overnight (“offsite” means not at a facility where buses are housed and maintained), and

3.   Short elapsed times.

While bell time changes were estimated to save $2M+ in transportation related spending, the changes place a burden on students and families that is not insignificant for many:

  • Some parents will have to use child care in the morning.
  • Elementary students will not benefit from the morning time in school (compared to current schedule) when they are fresh and rested; instead many will be in childcare.
  • Elementary students will be kept in school later in the day when many are more exhausted.
  • Elementary students may lose after-school enrichment opportunities for arts, music, or sports due to later release times.
  • Not all families want their elementary age children in school longer.
  • Elementary students have less time for homework and playtime.
  • Extra teachers will likely be needed in elementary schools and that cost may exceed the expected savings.
  • High School students start 15 minutes earlier.

Some of the above reasons and an analysis of the time changes are here: Analysis of HCPS Proposed 2018-2019 Bell Schedule.

There are benefits of the bell schedule change that were promoted but have not been well quantified. For example, there was no answer provided in the meeting to the question posed by School Board Member Melissa Snively regarding how many high school students worked that might benefit from the earlier release schedule.

HCPS has implied that the new bell schedule will address the late bus issue impacting over 10,000 students on a daily basis. What analysis, report, or study has been provided to help the public understand the root cause of late buses? Is the short elapsed time suspected to be the root cause or has it been proven to be the root cause? If it has been proven, some statistics around the problem locations would be very helpful.

Might there still be chronically late buses resulting from absenteeism, driver vacancies, and delays resulting from overnight parking? How severe and chronic is that problem? Where is that data?

Based on comments in last Tuesday’s HCPS Special Called Board Meeting, the school system is short around 170 bus drivers (after factoring in absenteeism). See webcast here at 1:57:00 (time marker) for that discussion.

In summary, with this decision, the Hillsborough County School District: Continue reading

Posted in HCPS Bell Schedules, Hillsborough School Board, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized