As the new principal at one of Florida's lowest-performing schools, Kristy Moody faced an enormous task. It had been years since Fairmount Park Elementary in St. Petersburg received anything higher than a D grade from the state. Almost all of its students were born into poor or lower middle class homes. Teachers routinely came and went, often in the middle of the year. And classroom behavior had become abysmal.
Nearly a third of the school's 90 fifth graders were old enough to be in middle school, held back once or twice. Many were no better in math and English than a first grader.
Fairmount Park was no place for a rookie teacher, yet Moody started the 2016-17 school year with seven of them on her staff. Still, her bosses — and the public — expected better.
That meant a C or even a B,
But how would Moody and her staff compensate for concentrated poverty? How would the new principal get just the right teachers in just the rights spots? How would she take dozens of moving parts and bring them together to move the needle?
It had to happen. Because, in their lifetimes, the kids at Fairmount Park had only one shot at elementary school.