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Leaders of struggling schools at forum: 'It's going to take the entire village'

ST. PETERSBURG — His school received an F in a state report card for the last school year. But incoming Gibbs High principal Kevin Gordon has a secret weapon this year: a long list of phone numbers of folks outside the school who are willing to help.

He plans to use it.

"It's going to take the entire village to move the ship forward," Gordon told elected officials and leaders from business, city, church, community and alumni groups at a forum last week at Eckerd College.

In the audience were 100 people invited by Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, who oversees economic development in Midtown. While the schools are run by the countywide district, Mayor Rick Baker has pledged to support them. Davis said the gathering was the first of its kind.

Joining Gordon on the podium were Claudius Effiom, the new principal at John Hopkins Middle; Raquel Wigginton, new principal at Meadowlawn Middle; and Valerie Brimm, the new director of strategic partnerships for Pinellas County schools.

Davis said students, parents and teachers stand to gain much from collaborations. As possibilities, he cited mentoring, tutoring, jobs and help during and after a crisis.

"This is an attempt to say, 'Let's get together and look and talk and just meet each other,' " Davis said.

Brimm said she plans to bring interactions between schools and the public to a new level. She said volunteers who in the past took children on bowling or fishing trips might be asked to get involved with tutoring.

"As you can see from data, we can no longer do it by ourselves," said Brimm, referring to the recent Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores that gave Gibbs an F and many other schools D's.

Gordon, a Gibbs graduate who took the helm this summer, said he will focus on improving literacy and discipline.

Effiom said he will implement a program to help students get to class on time and stay focused while they are there.

Wigginton said her focus will be discipline and students who rank poorly on comprehensive tests.

The new principals also received advice. Someone from the audience said students dress badly and should be taught the art of dressing well. Another suggested that not enough parents are encouraged to participate in school committees.

Bernice Darling, president of the Lake Maggiore Shores Neighborhood Association, said she was excited to get involved.

"There is a valuable community of retirees who are just waiting to get involved," Darling said, "but they just don't know how."

Luis Perez can be reached at or (727) 892-2271.

Leaders of struggling schools at forum: 'It's going to take the entire village' 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 4:30am]
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