Hernando County schools will have Pepsi-sponsored curriculum beginning in 2015


By Fran Fencil | frank.fencil@springhillcourier.com

BROOSKVILLE, Florida — Hernando County school curriculums will get a sweet makeover in 2015 thanks to a hefty sponsorship from soft-drink giant Pepsi.

The Brooksville bottling plant donated $1.5 million to the board of education’s general fund last month, a gift that comes with some significant strings and has bubbled up some controversy.

Among Pepsi’s stipulations are several minor changes that will find their way into history and social science books the company is supplying for the district. For instance, Spanish conquistadors Hernando de Soto (the county’s namesake) and Ponce de Leon will become Hernando de Soda and Ponce de Limon. A nine-week session on the creation and social influence of sodas will be added to all K-8 classes, and a full-year History of the Soft Drink course will be mandatory for all high school freshmen.

Additionally, all students will be assigned a 64-ounce refillable Big Gulp cup to use throughout the year.

“We think our students and parents are going to find this change very refreshing, much like an ice-cold Pepsi on a scorcher like today,” Hernando County schools director Gillian Fowell said. “We’re confident we made the right choice, and it’s the choice of a new generation.”

Pepsi’s corporate partners include Taco Bell, which will allow Hernando County schools to begin phasing out all bread products and replacing them with similarly shaped items made of Cool Ranch Doritos beginning in 2016.

“I can’t wait to wash down a Cool Ranch riblet sammie with a Baja Blast,” Nature Coast Tech student Brittany McPherson said. “And we can drink sodas in class now. Finally, the last vestiges of slavery have been lifted from students.”

The plan has its detractors, too, including Hernando County Teachers Union vice president William Bolgrath, who said the arrangement encourages unhealthy lifestyles and includes “downright offensive” promotions.

“Have you ever heard of Mountain Dew Mouth?” Bolgrath asked the board of education at a recent meeting. “Hernando County is going to become its own little Appalachia. This’ll be great for dentists but terrible for children.”

Frank Fencil

Frank Fencil is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades' experience. He has uncovered government corruption, toppled dirty police forces and covered two foreign wars as an international correspondent. He chose to return to his native Spring Hill in hopes of giving his hometown the quality watchdog journalism it deserves.

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