Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Teachers and graduates remember Pinellas Junior/Senior High with love, gratitude

CLEARWATER

As Mary Ann Young stepped onto Clearwater Intermediate School's campus, she was transported back to 1957.

She smelled the homemade biscuits and pizza baking in the cafeteria. She heard her old school's award-winning band. She peeked into classrooms, recalling supportive teachers who, though strict, wanted only the best for their students.

But there were hard times, too.

The school, called Pinellas Junior/Senior High at the time, served black North Pinellas students in grades 7 through 12 from 1934 until Pinellas schools were desegregated in 1968.

Students got tattered, hand-me-down textbooks with racial slurs scrawled on the remaining pages.

Almost all of the equipment inside the school was secondhand.

Students got up long before the sun to board the school's two buses, which picked up students from Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs and even New Port Richey.

Yet Young and hundreds of other alumni, teachers and community members who turned out last week to remember the school say the toil against adversity was part of what made Pinellas High so great.

"Being an all-black school, it was wonderful in the sense that we were more family-oriented. Everybody knew everybody, and we just worked together," said Young, a 65-year-old retired nurse from Clearwater who graduated in 1964.

"The teachers and office personnel made sure we remembered who we were and to take pride in ourselves," Young said. "We have many people who have gone on to do great things, and it's all because of this here."

A commemorative program was organized by the nonprofit group Bridging the Achievement Gap, which was founded in 2003 by Pinellas High alumni James and Gwen Feazell.

James said it's important for students enrolled in the group, which provides free after-school tutoring and college admissions help to local students, and the community at large to remember their history.

Originally called the Pinellas Industrial Institute for "domestic science and vocational training," the school opened in 1914 on Madison Avenue.

It was later renamed Pinellas Junior/Senior High and graduated its first class in 1934. In 1954, the school moved to Palmetto Street, serving nearly 1,000 black upper Pinellas students annually until schools desegregated in 1968.

"All of the schools have not been the same for 100 years. It's not to be angry. …But it's important that we not forget," said James Feazell, a former Largo High social studies teacher and school district minority recruitment specialist.

"We were able to make it — because of God — through segregation, and what better way to remember that than to come back and remember your classmates?"

And remember they did.

Camera flashes punctuated the laughter of classmates and teachers as they were reunited, some for the first time since graduation.

Gasps, girlish giggles and the yelling of old nicknames filled the air as former teachers and athletes were honored. There was gentle ribbing over which class was the best.

Many people raised their hands high to sing "you're the world to me," the final words of the alma mater.

Much like Gibbs High School, its south county counterpart, Pinellas High offered vocational classes in areas readily available to blacks at the time, including dry cleaning, industrial arts and cosmetology.

The school also offered college prep courses, which led many students to win college scholarships. The school produced many greats, including architects, a physicist and school administrators.

"The system gave us inferior materials and inferior books, but we did not get an inferior education," said Gwen Feazell.

Added 1959 graduate and former Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris: "All those life lessons that our teachers had learned, they imparted to us so we could be better. They allowed us to … know that anything was possible."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected].

   
Comments
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18