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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Grego plans to give report Monday on black student achievement

19

February

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego plans to give a report Monday in Clearwater about black student achievement.

A community group, the Superintendent's North County Minority Advisory Council, requested that Grego come and speak, said Lisa Wolf, a district spokeswoman. They also named the event a "North County Minority Report." The event will start at 6 p.m. at the North Greenwood Recreation & Aquatic Complex. 

Grego is expected to give a presentation and then open it up to the audience for a Question and Answer session. He's expected to provide a district-wide perspective on black student achievement rather than focus solely on north county. (About 70 percent of the county's black population lives south of Ulmerton Road; about 50 percent live south of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.)

The school district has faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times yearlong investigative series, "Failure Factories," which showed how the district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for five elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black. The five schools were outperformed by dozens of elementary schools in Florida with similar or worse demographics.

The five-part series also detailed how violence and disruption in the schools soared and experienced teachers fled after 2007. It showed how black students in Pinellas County are suspended out of school at four times the rate of other children — one of the widest disparities in Florida. And how black students are shut out of some of the district's fundamental schools, which are meant to voluntarily integrate the school system.

Wolf said that the north county group has asked Grego to address four topics: academic performance, discipline, student placement in magnets and fundamental schools, and the recruitment and retention of African American administrator and teachers.

Many black leaders have called for the School Board to take responsibility for the failure of black students and to stop disciplinary actions that are disproportionately directed at black students.

And the plaintiffs in a 15-year-old lawsuit that accused the school district of shortchanging black students is seeking court intervention. Ricardo Davis, president of the group, Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students, known as COQEBS, has said that the district has been slow to provide records and information to his group, which has been monitoring the district's efforts to help black students since they settled the state lawsuit in 2010.

The class-action case, Crowley vs. the Pinellas County School Board, will be discussed at 9:30 a.m. April 29 in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

District officials have been defensive about their record, emphasizing that progress is being made.

One positive statistic is a strong improvement in the district's black graduation rate. (Although black leaders have raised questions about why more black students are earning their high school diplomas through alternative routes.)

[Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2016 2:02pm]

    

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