Parents attended forum on struggling St. Pete schools
Pinellas school officials held a community forum at Lakewood High School last night, where they shared details of a proposed plan to transform the five struggling schools in south St. Petersburg.
Notably, Antonio Burt, director of school leadership, said teachers could make up to $25,000 more next year under a plan to extend the school day, increase merit pay and add professional development days.
Bay News 9 wrote a piece about the meeting, saying there were "zero parents" in attendance. Their reporting led people to to disparage the families of students for a seeming lack of involvement, particularly on Bay News 9's Facebook page. We at Gradebook want to add some context.
First of all, there were several concerned parents and grandparents at the forum. They identified themselves when they raised their hands to ask questions. One Melrose grandmother talked about waiting for 40 minutes for someone to take her to visit her son's class.
Additionally, Burt and other leaders have already met with parents on the schools' campuses. In fact, according to area superintendent Bob Poth, district leaders had been at Melrose twice on Wednesday; they spoke to staff in the morning about the proposal, then returned to speak with parents in the afternoon.
The television station wasn't wrong to note that Burt spoke to a "sparse crowd." In a high school auditorium, a group of about 30 people did look a bit sparse. There may have been a low turn-out because parents and teachers received information at the other meetings we just described. But there was little communication from the school district that the community forum was even occurring.
It was not listed on the School Board calendar. Some parents reported getting a robocall three hours before a similar meeting at Gibbs High School on Monday. The Times was clued in by a School Board member's tweet.
Poth acknowledged after the Lakewood High meeting that turnout had been less than expected, but said he was not sure what had happened with advertising the meeting.
Postscript: School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf called to say that, while the media was not notified about the community meetings, parents at the five schools received multiple notices, including phone calls, face-to-face communications, fliers and announcements.