Friday, November 24, 2017
Education

Black leaders say district broke promises made to settle lawsuit

RECOMMENDED READING


Pinellas County school leaders have broken promises they made to settle a lawsuit accusing them of shortchanging black students, according to the plaintiff in the case.

In a letter delivered to superintendent Mike Grego on Saturday, the group that sued the School Board said the district isn't doing enough to help struggling black students.

"We have concluded that the district continues to fail to meet its obligations regarding the education of black students," wrote Ricardo Davis, head of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students. "After five years, we simply do not feel any further discussions will be meaningful or helpful."

Davis' letter followed the publication of "Failure Factories," a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times that traced the decline of schools in the county's black neighborhoods.

In his letter, Davis wrote that the district has failed to close the achievement gap between black and nonblack students.

He cited concerns with Grego's plan to aid five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg.

He also voiced frustration 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.

Davis wrote that he had hoped to avoid going back to court.

"We regret having to take this step, but we feel the conduct of the district over the last five years has left us with no other alternative," Davis wrote.

Reached Monday, School Board attorney David Koperski declined to comment.

Davis referred questions to his group's attorney, Guy Burns.

"We've given it a reasonable attempt at talking through problems," Burns said of the group's dealings with the district. "We're going to be asking the court for the right to proceed with some court-imposed remedies."

Burns said he hopes to ask a state judge to force the district to spend more money on schools in the county's black neighborhoods.

Before that can happen, the group will have to clear legal hurdles, including going to U.S. District Court and getting permission from a federal judge to proceed.

But if successful, the move would resurrect Crowley vs. the Pinellas County School Board, a class-action lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court in 2000.

The suit alleged the district was violating the state constitution by depriving black students of their right to a decent education. Davis' group, known as COQEBS, took over as the plaintiff in 2010. The case was settled the same year.

Since then, COQEBS has held regular meetings with district officials and has routinely asked the district for data and information, with mixed results.

The attempt at rekindling the long-settled lawsuit comes on the heels of the Times investigation. It revealed the School Board's role in transforming elementary schools in the county's black neighborhoods into five of the worst in Florida.

The stories showed that Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose all were performing near the state average when the School Board voted for a plan that resegregated them.

For years afterward, the board and district leaders failed to deliver promised money and resources as failure rates in the predominantly black schools soared, the Times reported.

The stories prompted a public relations campaign by the district as Grego and other leaders sought to reassure the county's black community. They also drew outrage from elected officials across the county and state.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday became the latest leader to weigh in. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Democrat asked for a federal review of how the district has funded its schools.

Contact Michael LaForgia at [email protected] Follow @laforgia_.

Comments
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Published: 11/23/17
Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco schools brought home 20 top honors from the District 11 Junior Thespian Festival, which included 22 schools from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee counties and took place at the new River Ridge FAME Academy on Nov. 17 and ...
Published: 11/22/17
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Published: 11/22/17
Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

The thousands of students who signed up for Rita Osborn’s music and humanities classes at St. Petersburg Junior College knew what they had to do to pass.They could study and memorize material for tests, but they wouldn’t earn more than a C if they di...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/23/17
When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Wiseman’s cellphone rings at least once a week, usually after 9 p.m., with a call from a desperate parent. The voice on the line is tired, defeated. Once again, their child was excluded from an after-school program or summer cam...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/23/17
USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

Six University of South Florida professors whose research efforts span biology, engineering, chemistry and business have been selected as Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization announced Nov. 20.Election ...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Published: 11/21/17
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Published: 11/22/17