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Board members didn't listen to Jamerson speakers, parent says



Some parents spoke out last week against a proposal to end a feeder pattern from Jamerson Elementary to Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School.

One of the parents, Dana Douglas, sent a follow up letter to the School Board and Superintendent Mike Grego today in which she says that it was clear board members already had their minds made up before the meeting.

Here is the text of her letter:

"Dear School Board Members and Dr. Grego,


 Last Tuesday I took the morning off from work to attend a school board meeting and share my sentiments regarding the school board’s decision to end the Douglas L. Jamerson Elementary (DLJ) – Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School (TM) feeder pattern. After the meeting, when asked “how did it go?” I thought… a decision was made before we got there. While always polite and professional, no one was really listening. Five parents and three students represented the DLJ/TMFMS families. No one spoke in favor of the school board’s decision.


At the end of the day, no one from the school board or administration articulated any reason in particular to end the feeder pattern, which would reserve approximately 35 sixth grade seats per year to DLJ students who apply to TM as their first choice.  These students apply to pursue the promise and expectation to continue their studies in STEM, the arts and focus on the fundamental principles guiding their success.  For seven years DLJ and TM have collaborated to build a unique and powerful relationship building this STEM feeder pattern and building the momentum, the energy, enthusiasm and inspiration that is truly unheard of in any other feeder pattern. The schools have come together to ask for your support year after year and proven its success year after year. No other school or group has asked or earned this special place in our district. 


The School Board offered only the consolation that DLJ 5th graders could join the lottery process like every one else.


The comments from the school board and Pinellas county administrators consistently and unanimously praise DLJ for its undisputed success in bridging the GAP in achieving all of its goals and exceeding expectations in academic achievement and enrichment, a phenomenon attributable to exceptional leadership and an exceptionally talented and motivated staff. (All in spite of 60 some percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.)  There was equally high praise for TMFMS.


Ironically, the school Board shared their concerns that the district perpetuates the separation of the “haves and the have nots”, and yet that is exactly what this decision does. It prevents low income magnet students who have worked for years toward their anticipated path to success, from following that path and throws them back to the lottery.  But because Jamerson students tend to be surprisingly successful, perhaps we can use these students to boost the populations in our higher needs schools.


Although both schools favor the feeder pattern, as we have seen in this district time and time again, we will reward our most successful leaders by failing to acknowledge them or consider what is best for their students.


While certainly there is work to be done at many of our schools, I am certain that this is the wrong answer – to knowingly take a valuable opportunity from some students so our district can look better, even more equal, as a whole. I have seen enough talent in this district to know there is a better more responsible way to address our shortcomings. 


It is clear who this decision will hurt. What is not clear is who it will help.


Please reconsider your decision, and at the very least leave Thurgood Marshall as One option for Jamerson students to feed into.  Thank you.


Dana Douglas

Parent of an eighth grader TMFMS"


[Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 2:58pm]


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