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. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht


    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]
  2. 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group


    TALLAHASSEE — Five million people in Florida who are eligible to vote aren't registered, according to a nationwide non-partisan group that helps improve the accuracy of state voter rolls.

    Voters line up in front of the Coliseum Ballroom in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. A non-partisan group estimates that more than a quarter of Florida's adult-age population isn't registered to vote. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win


    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

  4. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  5. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]