Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

Panel on racial disparities in Hillsborough schools tries to get back on track

TAMPA — Starting from square one, a task force on African-American students in Hillsborough County tried Monday to get to the heart of continuing disparities in learning and discipline.

Task force members named a long list of issues including poverty, teacher turnover and varying opinions on punctuality.

Should kids be suspended when they are late? "If you are tardy at work, you will be unemployed," said Lewis Brinson, who recently returned on a contract basis as assistant superintendent.

Michael Pheneger of the American Civil Liberties Union said the result is that kids miss even more school. "It's almost inevitable that if you have an out-of-school suspension, bad things will happen to you," he said.

For more than a year, educators and community leaders have been meeting off and on to try to give the district some direction in curing these gaps.

At the most recent meeting, members agreed the effort was so adrift that they needed a facilitator to get them on track.

Glen Gilzean, a former member of the Pinellas County School Board, stepped into that role. He said he hopes the group can have something to show the district by March.

Members include Saba Baptiste, education chair of the local NAACP chapter; Michael Dove, representing the organization 100 Black Men of Tampa Bay; former magnet schools administrator and high school teacher Jennifer Morley; and Henry Ballard, a business owner who used to run the district's minority purchasing department.

They've already discussed some of the topics — such as the large numbers of suspensions for tardiness and the vague category of inappropriate behavior — at length.

Member Manny Rivero, executive director of the Jim Walter Partnership Center at the University of South Florida, said it's important to keep the group together, after it reports to the district, to ensure continued change.

"If this is a committee where we're going to put our findings into a nice, glossy report, check the boxes and go home, we're wasting our time," he said.

The task force is meeting as the federal Office of Civil Rights investigates the district stemming from a complaint by community activist Marilyn Williams, alleging minority students are shortchanged when it comes to both education and discipline.

Although Williams is not on the task force, she attended Monday's meeting.

"I was a little bit surprised that the focus was 100 percent on discipline," she said told the group. "How you frame a problem has a strong effect on the kind of solution you come up with."

She recommended the district consider national research on student engagement.

Members agreed in general to look at models in the criminal justice system that are designed to affect behavior without overly punishing; and to enlist student opinions.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected] Follow @marlenesokol

Comments
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18