Third Bridging the Gap forum draws more than 100 people
More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at the third public forum to receive input about the Pinellas County School District's plan to close the achievement gap.
The forum, which was held at Gibbs High, followed the same format as the first two, held at Largo High and Boca Ciega High. Superintendent Mike Grego spoke for about 20 minutes and then asked audience members to write their suggestions on sticky notes.
Bridging the Gap includes five areas in which the district wants to close the gap between black students and their classmates. Those include: graduation rates; grade-level proficiency on state exams; participation and performance in accelerated classes; disciplinary infractions; and eligibility for special education programs. (In the last two categories, black students are overrepresented.) The plan was released in 2013, but has been updated.
Dan Evans, the district's head of accountability, has compiled the comments so far. The district collected 288 comments at Largo High and 287 at Boca Ciega High. (A few people have approached the Gradebook about whether the district might intentionally "lose" some of the sticky notes with more pointed comments or concerns. The Gradebook has taken photos of many of the original sticky notes and, so far, those appear in the district's compilation.)
Notes gathered last night haven't been compiled yet. Here's a sample of comments:
"Consider outfitting schools based upon the needs, not the cookie-cutter approach. Smaller classes for schools with a greater percentage of low-performing students."
"Creation of magnet programs is great, but too often creates a wide rift in school-within-a-school populations (like PCCA in Gibbs) which leads to bullying and increased discrimination against traditional student populations."
"Robust summer learning loss needs to be addressed in order to close the opportunity gap."
"Increase opportunities for minorities to be identified as gifted. ie. What happened to Plan B?"
"What are we doing to attract and retain experienced teachers to high-minority schools? They tend to have the least access to the best teachers and often have the most new teachers. No amount of professional development can close that gap."
"Ways to create heterogenous school populations - busing to create mixed academic levels and ethnicities."
The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the 1964 federal desegregation case, Leon W. Bradley Jr. vs. Board of Public Instruction of Pinellas County, have been concerned that the school district scheduled the first four forums without consulting community groups. The meetings also have been attended largely by school employees, many of whom are white. District officials have said that they invited schools to each forum on purpose to get feedback from teachers.
The fourth scheduled forum is at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Tarpon Springs High School. Other forums have not been scheduled yet, although several are listed on the School Board calendar on "bookmarked" dates. (They have a time and date, but no location.)