Pinellas school board supports agreement on black students
The Pinellas County School Board left no doubt today that it supports a new legal agreement aimed at boosting black student achievement. The board won’t vote on the agreement until July 28, but at a workshop today members expressed no major reservations.
“It’s a good document,” said board member Carol Cook. “It’s a great piece to help us focus” on the achievement gap.
The “memorandum of understanding” was hammered out in court-ordered mediation between the district and attorneys for the plaintiffs in Bradley v. the Pinellas County School Board, the 45-year-old court case that underpins the legal fight for integration of Pinellas schools. It calls on the district to keep better tabs on black student performance, offer more specific remedies and hold school-level officials accountable for progress.
Board member Linda Lerner said the agreement showed the two parties have “made great steps forward.” But she also suggested some minor wording changes, saying the emphasis on black students alone might mislead some people to think the district is shortchanging other students. “I want to be sure that we don’t forget all our other students,” she said.
But superintendent Julie Janssen said that’s not going to happen. The agreement “does not invalidate what we’re doing for all other children,” she said.
Among those attending the workshop: Roger Plata, co-counsel for the plaintiffs; Watson Haynes, who co-chairs a community group that is advising the plaintiffs’ lawyers; and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis.
Plata said many are concerned about what will happen to black students as the district returns to neighborhood schools. “This (agreement) is a way of ensuring … that the black kids are going to be treated fairly as they re-segregate,” he said.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter