Pinellas, principals and the possibility of new school zones
Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen's recent shuffling of principals took a polite hit from an unexpected source yesterday. And what shook loose in the crossfire was the possibility of re-shifting school zones to better balance concentrations of struggling kids.
The criticism came from Goliath Davis, a high-ranking St. Petersburg city administrator who is widely perceived to be a close Janssen ally. Davis offered what he called a "spirited counterpoint" after deputy superintendent Jim Madden addressed the Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students and listed some of the factors behind the principal changes, including state accountability requirements.
"We don't believe that a simple shifting of the chairs is going to address the problems," Davis said. "We at COQEBS believe there were some fundamental flaws in the way that the choice districts were drawn ... So what we really believe is, we don't care who the principal is. Until something is done to come up with a more equitable distribution of those kids, you can't have a school that's so heavily populated with problem kids and think that someone is going to fly in from Heaven or wherever and make a great turnaround."
Madden's response: "We know that part of the answer is redrawing some lines for schools, but that alone won't do what he's saying. It also has to do with what programs are offered at what school, for what areas, for what kids."
In a brief phone interview, Janssen told The Gradebook she wants to see "better balance in the socioeconomic area, so that you don't have all the lowest socioeconomic children going to the same school." She said the district may have to redraw some zones, but nothing radical. She said it's too early in the "brainstorming" phase to say where this is headed. She also said more details will be presented to the board at its Aug. 17 workshop.
As for the principal changes, she said she respected Davis' opinion but didn't flinch: "Without the (school) leader being aligned to what we need to do to fix the problem, we're dead in the water. We have to deal with the leadership first."