Greg Schiano thinks every child in the Hillsborough County Public School District should count.
This week, he means that quite literally.
Throughout the state of Florida, public schools are nearing the end of what is commonly known as FTE Week. The initials stand for full-time equivalent and refer to the expected enrollment at each school when all children are in attendance. An FTE Week is a survey period, one of three each year, conducted by the state to evaluate enrollment numbers and – this is the key part – determine the amount of funding each school will receive.
Thus, while school attendance is critical for every child throughout the year, it is particularly important to the schools during a survey period. With that in mind, Schiano, recently named the new Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has joined in the effort to remind Hillsborough County families of the importance of school attendance this week.
There are approximately 196,000 students in Hillsborough County Public Schools in 2011-12 and, amazingly, Schiano was able to get his message to almost all of them, late last week. Using a phone message that was sent out to the homes of roughly 183,000 of those kids, the Bucs' coach alerted Bay area families to the survey period and spoke about the importance of attendance and preparation.
Schiano's message was as follows:
"Hi, this is Greg Schiano, the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, calling for the Hillsborough County Public Schools to remind parents of how important it is to have your children in school. As the Bucs' coach, I'm really looking forward to the games on Sundays this fall. Critical to our success are the practices, team meetings and film study. That's where we learn. As a coach, I always expect all my players to be there on time and ready to learn because every player counts. It's the same with school. As parents, we need to make sure our children are in school on time and ready to learn because every child counts. It's especially important the week of February 13th. This is the week schools take count of all students, determining the funding received for our children. We want your child to be counted. So join me in making sure that our children are in school on time and ready to learn, so they count. Thank you."
Schiano's timely message spoke to an issue of utmost importance in Hillsborough County schools. Failure to record representative attendance numbers, coupled with the already difficult economic times schools are operating within, could have serious consequences for individual schools, prompting significant changes next year.
"We face several challenges that we hope the community will help us resolve [regarding] daily attendance to improve academic performance [and a] lack of funding for school projects, teacher salaries, and training," said Gwen Luney, assistant superintendent – division of supportive services for the school district. "[We need] a community that understands our need to prepare students for the future and to keep America competitive."
Schiano also recorded a separate phone message aimed at the equally important FCAT testing period later this spring. In it, he stressed the importance of studying and preparation and compared it to the work the Buccaneers put in to get ready for their own challenges. Schiano plans to place a second call to local families when the FCAT approaches.
"The support we receive from Coach Schiano means a great deal to the Hillsborough County School District," said Luney. "It lets our teachers, students, and parents know he supports education both on and off the field and that the sports community understands our needs."
Schiano's message was definitely heard, as local schools have reported immediate feedback from parents this week. Though he only joined the Buccaneers three weeks ago, Schiano has already embraced his role in the Bay area community and is eager to make an impact beyond what he brings to the football field.
"We've had a very positive response," said Luney. "Parents were surprised that he has responded to the district so quickly and glad to hear he was involved in education, not just sports."