Bringing a Public School Back to the Beach


Sarah Tierney has taught middle school for 16 years. She also has a son. While she’s not looking to switch jobs, she is seeking a public middle school for her son. Jack is in his second year at Montessori By The Sea, and when she and other parents started talking about where they intended to send their children when they started middle school, they decided the time had come to bring a public school back to the beach.

“There’s not been a public school here since 2009,” she told the commission. “The closing of Gulf Beaches left a hole here in the community.”

The group of parents started planning a free charter public middle school, Academy By the Sea. A charter school has lottery-based enrollment, charges no admission, and, like other public schools, must meet state academic standards.

The key difference? A nonprofit board operates the charter school, with state oversight.  

“It’s a group thing where everybody’s looking at how to bring a public school back to the beaches; that’s really at the heart of our mission,” Ms. Tierney said, adding that the school would follow Montessori principles of “inquiry-based, student–centered learning.”

On June 1 the board will submit a rough draft of their application to the Pinellas County School Board’s charter school office. On August 1, they will submit a final application. if approved, Academy By The Sea would open in August of next year (2014). The school would service grades four through eight.

Ms. Tierney says the board will explore several beach buildings for the school, and will consider, among others, the old police department. One building not being considered? The old Gulf Beaches Elementary School. The school board told her it “has no plans of using that buildings at the time,” Ms. Tierney says.  

“As a former teacher I think it’s very important that we have a school here,” resident Deborah Schechner said. “A school is the core of the community.”

The commission passed a unanimous resolution in support of Academy By The Sea. Watch the Gabber for news of a future pledge drive; click here to visit the Academy By The Sea’s web site. To view the presentation to the Commission, click here

Read more from: St. Pete Beach News