What a difference a year makes, one parent says of Fairmount Park Elementary
The Times has written extensively about the rapid decline of five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg after the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration efforts. We've also covered reform efforts, teacher hiring, and a recent improvement in school grades at three of the schools.
The Gradebook has gotten a lot of emails, phone calls and letters about what's going on in Melrose, Maximo, Lakewood, Campbell Park and Fairmount Park. But one from a parent at Fairmount Park seemed particularly worth sharing. (He gave us permission to share some of his thoughts here. I removed his son's name.)
Chris Cervellera said there was a noticeable improvement when school started this year. He wrote:
"The atmosphere was totally different in comparison to last year's first day of school and the open house. There were firemen and police officers waving at the kids and parents as they came into the school. Teachers were singing and being energetic at the front gate. Even the smallest details like having clearly marked directions to the various classrooms were a breath of fresh air compared to the disorganization and chaos that permeated that school last year.
Many of the teachers have left Fairmount Park, I think they’ve had the most departures out of all the schools in the area. However, it seems that the truly amazing teachers have stayed and Principal (Kristy) Moody has hired some great new teachers to bring the school forward. When we approached (our son's) classroom, we were greeted by (teacher), a 4-year Fairmount veteran who was energetic, enthusiastic and greeted (our son) with a giant hug. The classroom was beautiful, clean and there was fun music playing. She encouraged the students to go grab a book while they waited for the class to begin. Principal Moody even popped her head into the classroom and said hello to us. Last year, (our son's) teacher barely introduced herself at open house and the classroom was tired and worn. Today, we were encouraged to go to the media center for the "Boohoo Yahoo!" Parent Breakfast. There, parents were encouraged to sign up to be a volunteer. This might sound like something small and commonplace for most schools, but it was so encouraging to see a page full of parents names when last year there was no apparent push for parent involvement.
When we left the parking lot today, I was taken aback because I saw Mayor Kriseman and some of his staff members. A few days ago, the Mayor was speaking before a crowd before Hillary Clinton spoke in St. Petersburg. Today, he was there with his staff, in the school parking lot and holding signs. No cameras. No press. Just a mayor caring for the children and families in his city.
Over the summer, I met with Principal Moody and she is truly the woman for this job. She is motivated and desires to see Fairmount make a rebound. We are hopeful about this year and have a sense of optimism where doubt and despair used to reside."