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. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.