Rene Flowers, who beat Glenton Gilzean Jr. for the District 7 Pinellas County School Board seat this month, took the oath of office during the board's organizational meeting last week. She represents an area that covers St. Petersburg south of 54th Avenue N, Kenneth City, Gulfport and South Pasadena.
Before Tuesday's meeting, she offered thoughts on coming challenges, such as the switch from FCAT to a new series of exams to evaluate student performance. Here are excerpts of her conversation with Times reporter Curtis Krueger:
What are some of the biggest issues facing the School Board?
I think the transitioning from the FCAT and making sure we get these students to pass these end-of-course exams. Children are anxious because here we go with something new again. Parents are anxious (because they're thinking) "I'd like my child to graduate, my child has been in school for 12 years." We're not going to be able to lure companies here if we are not graduating (students) with a variety of skills. I think everybody's focused on it.
For your district, is the achievement gap one of the biggest issues?
It is the biggest issue … it's all about the achievement gap and getting the kids who are behind caught up.
What do you want from teachers?
I want teachers to come to south St. Petersburg and not feel like, "Omigod, I've got to get out of here before dark." I want them to establish relationships with those parents so … the only time you call on a parent is (not) when the child is in trouble. (You could call to say) "Johnny had a wonderful day today. He's my turnaround kid. I haven't seen you in the PTA meeting, what's going on?" I want to see that come back. With that kind of buy-in, you will see a lot of things change that money's not going to change.
What other changes do want to see?
I want to bring a sense of pride back to education … Teachers have been beat up and their morale is low. Not that they don't love teaching anymore, but there's so much that's expected of them. It used to be (people would ask): "When you grow up what do you want to be?" And you know, we said a police officer, a fireman, a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer. Now when you ask that, teacher is nowhere in the equation. I want to bring that back in the equation.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.