Pinellas wants to overhaul dropout prevention
The Pinellas school district is gearing up to radically revamp its dropout prevention programs, with top district officials acknowledging today that current efforts are not working.
There are no details yet, but a committee that began meeting this week has been given wide latitude to "dream big" -- and told to keep student interest in mind.
"We need to be asking students, 'What would you like? What do you need to learn? And how can we keep you in school?' " Cathy Fleeger, the district's chief academic officer, told School Board members at a workshop today. "We need to think about the Burger King. Have it my way."
The committee, which includes school officials and representatives from community groups and other public agencies, is scheduled to issue detailed recommendations in January. In the meantime, it will survey at-risk students and recent dropouts.
The district's graduation rate was 74.4 percent last year.
Many dropouts do not fit the stereotype of burnouts and pregnant girls, Fleeger said. She noted that her goddaughter dropped out despite a 4.3 GPA because she was interested in fashion marketing and wanted a more adult setting for learning. (She eventually re-enrolled and earned a traditional diploma.)
"We have a real core of (at-risk) kids who are of average to very gifted intelligence who we bore to death," Fleeger said. "These students don't like traditional school as we deliver it."