Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A | Children's Initiative at Fairmount Park Elementary

Fairmount Park's Children's Initiative takes aim at poverty's grip

Toryian Larkins, 6, and brother Trevion, 9, behind him, get breakfast Tuesday at Fairmount Park Elementary. A new program aims to help kids at the F school succeed.


Toryian Larkins, 6, and brother Trevion, 9, behind him, get breakfast Tuesday at Fairmount Park Elementary. A new program aims to help kids at the F school succeed.

ST. PETERSBURG — Fairmount Park Elementary opened school this week with bad news and good news.

Bad news: The school plummeted from a C to an F.

Good news: The 560-student campus has launched a pilot program to help children from low-income homes succeed by eliminating the obstacles their parents face when they try to be involved in their kids' education.

Modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, Fairmount Park's Children's Initiative is a partnership between the Pinellas County School District, the city of St. Petersburg and the Juvenile Welfare Board Children's Services Council.

Organizers believe it has the potential to break cycles of poverty for students in this Childs Park school, where 92 percent of kids are on free and reduced-price lunches.

Lori Matway, a former principal who oversees school programs for the city, said she was impressed with the Harlem Zone's philosophy of doing "whatever it takes" to help a student move to the next level, versus offering blanket services to families that might not need them.

"That really has to be the mind-set," Matway said. "Stop watering it down for all."

Here's more on the new effort at Fairmount Park:

What is the Harlem Children's Zone Project?

A program that began in the early 1990s targeting children and families in one New York City block. The effort focused on providing families with services that could reduce the obstacles poverty presents: failing schools, crumbling housing, violent crime and health issues. The goal was to enable parents to take an active role in their kids' education. By 2001, the project had expanded to 100 blocks serving more than 8,000 children and 6,000 adults. Today, it starts with the Baby College, a series of parent workshops for kids up to age 3.

How is Fairmount adapting the project?

This year, four classes involving 72 kids in prekindergarten to second grade — one class per grade level — are being targeted. Families of those children, selected at random, have signed contracts saying they will be involved in their children's schooling. Parents will attend regular parent training classes, and families will be provided access to free before- and after-school care, health services and more, depending on their specific needs. Two social workers will be assigned to the group. In January, AmeriCorps workers will work one-on-one with the kids in the classrooms, and make home visits.

What role is the JWB and the city playing?

The JWB will work with the district to help identify which of its existing family-centered services might meet a family's needs. For example, if someone needs dental care, the JWB will help. The city of St. Petersburg had already identified Childs Park as an area needing long-term improvement and can offer its parks and recreation programs, for example, to assist.

How is the pilot program being funded?

Right now, existing resources are being used. The partners have applied for federal grant money.

How long is the pilot?

Valerie Brimm, director of strategic partnerships for the district, said the aim is to expand to third grade next year, following the children as they rise from grade to grade. Depending on the success of the program, there is talk of expanding it to Tarpon Springs.

How will we know it is working?

Teachers will measure students' academic performance social skills from year to year. The school also will look at increases in parental and community involvement.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or

Fast facts

Find out more

More information about the Harlem Children's Zone can be found at

Fairmount Park's Children's Initiative takes aim at poverty's grip 08/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 5:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]