Pinellas school chief addresses resegregation fears
Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox downplayed mounting concerns about the district'??s new student assignment plan, saying Tuesday that the expected return of all-black or predominantly black schools would not be as daunting as some imagine.
"There are a lot of people in this community who tend to think that where there are concentrations of black kids, good things aren't going on. I respectfully disagree,"?? Wilcox (pictured above) told members of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
"I think, quite honestly, that in many of the places where we have high concentrations of African American kids we have the best teaching and learning going on, and we can demonstrate it by gain scores showing that these kids are making huge gains."
Wilcox added: "I think that we can educate black kids in high concentrations and in very high numbers and also to very high levels."
His comments came in answer to several questions about the new plan, which would end the 4-year-old choice plan and return Pinellas to a system of neighborhood schools. Because the county's black and white residents tend to live in separate neighborhoods, several schools would go back to being predominantly black for the first time since 1971.
Many, including the School Board's only black member, Mary Brown, have expressed concern about that aspect of the plan. The School Board is scheduled to put the finishing touches on the plan this week after completing a "??listening tour"?? around the county. An initial vote is scheduled for next Tuesday. A final vote is set for Nov. 13.
Wilcox's statements run counter to research showing that, in recent years, more and more minority students find themselves in segregated schools, and that those schools tend to have high concentrations of students in poverty. In other districts, the problem has chased away good teachers and driven down performance.
But Wilcox said Pinellas already is starting to see small gains among black students. He said the district also is taking steps to bring more resources to schools where help is needed.
"What we have endeavored to do is to serve the kids in whatever location they find themselves as best we can," he said.