Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen has signed off on a new program aimed at increasing achievement among black male students.
Officials are still working out the details but say the pilot program will target 40 students at Gibbs and Boca Ciega high schools.
Valerie Brimm, who directs the district's Office of Strategic Partnerships, announced the program last week at a meeting of Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students.
The teens will meet a couple of times a week in a special class that will focus on cultural and behavioral issues, Brimm said.
The National Trust for the Development of African-American Men will facilitate the program, set to launch in the next few weeks and run through the end of the school year. The organization already runs a similar program in some Hillsborough schools.
Area districts have come under scrutiny recently because of their dismal graduation rates for black male students. Last August, a national report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education concluded that Pinellas had the lowest graduation rate for black male students of any big school district in the country.
The Pinellas County School District disputed the foundation's figure — 21 percent in 2008 — and questioned its methodology. The district's state-computed graduation rate for black male students was 57.5 percent in 2009-10.
Brimm said the new program is just one of the ways Pinellas plans to tackle this issue.