LARGO — Sean Singh told the Pinellas County School Board Tuesday that he felt like he had a case of deja vu.
Almost three years ago, he and other parents pleaded with the board to continue giving students at Jamerson Elementary first dibs, along with fundamental school students, on open seats at A-rated Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle.
Parents won that fight. But now the proposal is back.
Under a new plan for the 2014-15 school year, students at Jamerson would get first dibs on seats at F-rated Azalea Middle and C-rated Bay Point Middle, not Thurgood Marshall.
"Today I feel like a victim," Singh said.
Dana Douglas, who has an eighth grader at Thurgood Marshall, said the preference is touted in Jamerson's brochure and is important to families who selected the elementary school.
"It's a big deal to a lot of people," she said.
The School Board voted 6-0 in favor of the plan, with member Rene Flowers absent. Before the change goes into effect, board members will hold another public vote.
Board member Linda Lerner said parents shouldn't worry about the school grades. Those are an indication that there are struggling students, not a reflection of the overall school quality.
"I believe all the students will have two very excellent choices as they come out of Jamerson," she said.
Students from Jamerson still can apply to Thurgood Marshall, board members emphasized.
But board members didn't say students' chances of getting in through the district's application system won't be as good. Many seats are taken by those with first preference — as it stands now, the students from fundamental elementaries or Jamerson. After that, preference goes to students with siblings at the school, then students whose parents work there, and finally, those who live nearby. The remaining seats are filled through a lottery.
In the last three years, every student at Jamerson who applied for a seat at Thurgood Marshall got in, said Bill Lawrence, director of student demographics, assignment and school capacity. This year, 45 students applied from Jamerson. Last year, 33 did.
Singh said he didn't understand why the district would attract families to Jamerson with the preference and then change it, especially when so few students would be affected.
"That's what's really perplexing to us," he said.
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8846.