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Oversight committee meets to review Referendum spending

 Oct. 28, 2019



The Independent Citizens Referendum Oversight Committee meets regularly to ensure that Referendum funds are spent as voters intended.
The meeting on Friday, Oct. 25 focused on fourth-quarter spending for last fiscal year.


Since voters originally approved the half-mill tax in 2004, Referendum money has strengthened reading, art and music programs; provided up-to-date technology; and helped recruit and retain quality teachers. Pinellas County taxpayers have renewed Referendum funding three times, all times by large margins. The Referendum will come up for renewal again in 2020.

The Referendum enhances performing arts programs through equipment, teacher training, new band uniforms, guest artist presentations, field trips to performing arts venues, better sound systems and auditorium upgrades. One of the meeting highlights was a video showcasing a Referendum-funded summer camp called Camp Ignite that connects music and literacy.

PreK-12 Visual Arts Specialist Jonathan Ogle shared that the Referendum continues to provide schools with equitable art supplies, equipment and technology. Thanks to the Referendum students learn new skills and create strong and award-winning works of art. Improved resources and professional development have raised the bar for student artwork, which is showcased in more than 20 exhibitions in the community, the state and the nation.

The Referendum provides reading materials to enhance instruction, literacy intervention programs, specialized reading programs and teacher training. For all levels of English Language arts, the 2018-19 school year "was one of our very best in terms of achievement increases," said Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Kevin Hendrick. "We increased 3 percentage points in proficiency as a district."

The Referendum supplements our work as a district and is an important component of the the impressive gains, he said.

The Referendum also funded a new online platform the district is exploring to help students with the SAT and ACT, according to High School Reading Specialist Jacqueline Hurley. It has also enabled us to partner with experts in exceptional education, English learners and gifted education to revise curriculum to better meet the needs of students performing below and above grade level in language arts, said Holly Slaughter, elementary school reading specialist.

Dr. Connie Kolosey, director of library, technology and instructional materials, updated the committee on SMART Board installations. She also shared how the Referendum-funded Computer Technology Integration Project, or CTIP, will get more laptops into the hands of teachers who will use them to support teaching and learning. Teachers in the program commit to 30 hours of professional development, with classroom coaching.


The oversight committee plans to present its annual report to the School Board in January.