The Pinellas County school district is coming to a community meeting near you
Back in June, the Pinellas County School Board carved out a new category in its strategic plan to emphasize closing the achievement gap between black and non-black students. Now, district officials say they will seek community input and report any progress straight to the public -- even if it's after-hours.
Superintendent Mike Grego passed out to School Board members draft copies outlining how the district will work to achieve one of five goals under the district's "Bridging the Gap" plan at a board meeting Tuesday. Those copies, once finalized, will be handed out to the public at periodic community meetings scheduled across the county over the next few months.
Grego called the district's plans and predicted trajectory a "bold move."
"We want to accelerate," Grego said. "I’m not happy with the rate. I’m happy with some of the rates but not all of the rates. Wee all need to be not satisfied completely but really honed in on when are we going to get to 100 percent."
The format, made public Tuesday, focused specifically on eliminating the gap between the proficiency rates on state required assessments between black and non-black students. The plan touched upon academic rigor, effective monitoring systems, extended learning programs and family and community engagement for all students, with subcategories listing ways on how to focus specifically on minority students.
In 2016, about 30 percent of black students scored a passing score of three or higher on the Florida Standards Assessments English language arts exam. The rate for non-black students was around 58 percent.
Deputy superintendent Bill Corbett called the handouts "an understandable pathway that people could see how we’re talking about trying to close the achievement gap."
"But we want it to be simple," Corbett added.
The district is working on similar handouts for closing the gap between graduation rates for black and non-black students, closing the gap in accelerated participation and performance rates for black and non-black students, reducing the disparity in the rates of disciplinary infractions between black and non-black students and reducing the number of black students being found eligible for Exceptional Student Education programs.
No scheduled community meetings were announced Tuesday. Grego said the district would also update the public on two active lawsuits claiming the district hasn't done enough to educate black students.
Board members were quick to jump on board and commend Grego's initiative.
"This gives the district an opportunity to be able to dialogue with the constituents face-to-face so that they have a better understanding," of the lawsuits and district efforts, said board member Rene Flowers. "It shows transparency."
Board member Linda Lerner called the community outreach an excellent initiative, but asked for the community's help. She mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of fathers.
"As we go out and be accountable, I'm going to say, I want the community to be accountable," she said.