Pine View alumni, students and parents panicked recently when they learned that the school had been given the classification of “magnet” school. However, despite their concerns about this change bringing issues and limitations to Pine View, the categorization is merely a name, and nothing to elicit the worries of the community.
The magnet label was given to Pine View by the finance department in December of 2015 in a state finance database. The branding has no impact on class size, enrollment or eligibility. Principal Dr. Stephen Covert believes that Pine View has always embodied the definition and values of a magnet school, even when not classified so. “The school board chair, the superintendent and the executive director of high schools all have said it’s been a magnet, if not in definition on a page or a button clicked, but in perception and common definition for as long as anyone can remember,” Covert said. “Our superintendent happens to be a Pine View grad, so who better to make that statement than the lady who was here when it started? If our superintendent says that we’re a gifted magnet school of choice, that’s pretty good.”
Covert feels that, long before any formal change, Pine View could be accurately described as a magnet. “A magnet draws people and things to it. What better description of Pine View?” he said. “We serve all of Sarasota County, we do have a very special program, there are eligibility requirements, achievement, IQ scores, it’s an accelerated curriculum that is highly differentiated.”
Following Pine View’s ranking as the #7 high school in the nation and #1 in the state of Florida, a school board meeting was hosted, where the new status was discussed.
Despite Covert and the rest of the school board’s assurances that the title doesn’t affect students, a group of community members have created the “Unofficial Guide to Pine View”, using the old domain of the school website, pineviewschool.com. On the website, they campaign for an end to the magnet school status, have created a petition to remove it, and list a number of limitations that the status places on students. Specifically, they claim that the title limits the number of FLVS (Florida Virtual School) online courses and Duel Enrollment (DE) courses at the State College of Florida (SCF) that students can take.
However, Covert said these statements are not true. “Lies…” he said, “And I emphasized that in my comments to the school board and to the public.” Covert has contacted the creators of the website asking them to remove the misleading information, but has yet to receive any sort of response or see any action taken. “If they were interested in transparency and truth, they would have responded,” he said.
“There is a lot of stuff on that website that’s plain old not true. Limiting choice: not true. We don’t allow virtual options: not true. I sent a letter to all the parents in the Pine View Community; students have the option to take virtual classes,” he said.
Covert worries that the infectious qualities of the internet may, sadly, lead people to believe the untrue information presented in the Unofficial Guide. “Our community tends to be well educated, but weirdly enough, they tend to immediately believe whatever they see online, whereas, I would assume, they might read something online and question it and do a little digging and make sure it’s accurate. And that is not what I have seen with some Pine View alums or current students, because nothing about whether it’s a magnet or not a magnet…none of that defines who we are as a community,” Covert said.
What has changed recently, however, although independent of the magnet title change is the number of DE courses that a student can take during the year. While previously, juniors and seniors were allowed to take two DE classes each school year, in the upcoming year they will be allowed to take two courses in each semester (fall, spring, and summer), a total of six courses. The website also claims that freshman and sophomores are not allowed to take DE classes, even though there are students currently enrolled in these classes.
David Nezelek, calculus teacher and Pine View alumnus, made an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings among other alumni in a Facebook group. “There was some concern that that meant that there would be a change in the focus of Pine View,” Nezelek said. “I decided to make a post because a lot of people were kind of freaking out. A lot of alums. I, like many alums, am very protective of Pine View, and so when we hear any little rumor that something is going to change in Pine View’s mission, people often get concerned. And that’s understandable. So I just wanted to go in there and say, ‘Hey, this is really not something to worry about.'”
However, for all the worry of alumni, this magnet school status changes Pine View very little. “There is not going to be any real change to Pine View’s focus: it will continue to be a school for gifted kids and the change was really more of a formality just based on recent changes to Florida law,” Nezelek said.