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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

COQEBS to take a stand on expansion of fundamental schools



We've already heard that Superintendent Julie Janssen and some of St. Petersburg's black leaders have concerns about the call for a fundamental high school in south Pinellas.

But now the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students, aka COQEBS, plans to take an official position on the issue.

Watson Haynes, co-chair of the group, asked members to email them their thoughts about whether a fundamental school could damage or help a population of already struggling black students so that leaders can formulate a stance.

Haynes said that he's not opposed to the fundamental concept. But he wants to know exactly how the placement of a new school in the county will affect other schools: "Make sure you know what you're doing," he said. "Don't just do it."

Fundamental schools require parents and students to sign a contract agreeing to strict compliance with disciplinary and parental involvement requirements, or else face being booted from the school.

Most of the voices aired during Wednesday morning's COQEBS meeting were those of skepticism. The group, after all, is responsible for monitoring the school district's compliance with legal agreements in two lawsuits dealing with the inequitable treatment of black students in Pinellas County.

Goliath Davis, co-chair and a top administrator for the City of St. Petersburg, has been a vocal doubter. Besides having concern that a new fundamental could displace struggling students, he raised the question of whether fundamental schools have demonstrated progress at narrowing the achievement gap between black and white students.

"I'm not a proponent of a single strategy that doesn't improve the situation," he said. "It doesn't deal with the systemic things we need to address if we want these kids to succeed."

While the group talked, fundamental school advocate Jean Willingham listened from the side and took notes. She said afterwards that she believes fundamentals do provide a solution for children in south Pinellas, even if it means making allowances for students who may not have an active parent in their lives.

"We need to raise the bar in south Pinellas County," Willingham said. "And we need to have a flagship school in south Pinellas County that students are drawn to."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 6:05pm]


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