Sunday, June 17, 2018
Education

New 'report card' says Pinellas' failings with black students lead to incarceration

ST. PETERSBURG — Black students in the Pinellas County School District are failing at higher rates than black children in virtually any other school district in Florida.

On Thursday, some of the county's black activists called on the School Board to take responsibility for the failure.

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 parents, grandparents, community members and school employees, they said they had heard a lot of talk without seeing a lot of change.

"At what point does the School Board and the superintendent take the responsibility," said Ricardo Davis, president of Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students, known as COQEBS.

Goliath Davis, the former police chief and deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, said the school district has become adept at "spin control."

Their comments came during a public forum Thursday at Bethel Community Baptist Church in which four panelists discussed a new "report card" from the Southern Poverty Law Center that painted a grim portrait of black student achievement in Pinellas County.

It found that black students were disciplined more harshly than their classmates and were twice as likely to drop out of school as white students.

At times, Thursday's event was emotional and heated.

Deveron Gibbons, a member of the board of trustees at St. Petersburg College, said that he blamed the school system for the recent shooting deaths of black children because they should have been in school.

"That could easily have been my son," he said.

Chris Warren, a 35-year-old father of one, said it wouldn't make a difference to talk to school officials.

"There's no point in pointing your finger at a school district for 30 years that you know doesn't have our best interests at heart," he said.

Amir Whitaker, of the Alabama-based nonprofit Law Center, said during the discussion that black students are underrepresented in gifted classes, but overrepresented in school-based arrests and out-of-school suspensions. More Pinellas students are arrested for disorderly conduct than in seven local counties combined, including Hillsborough County.

The Law Center said that "unnecessary school-based arrests, suspensions and expulsions … are part of the school-to-prison pipeline that cuts short a child's education and increases the likelihood of incarceration."

The report card echoes what the Tampa Bay Times found in a yearlong investigation, "Failure Factories," which showed how the district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for five elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black.

The series also has detailed how violence and disruption in the schools soared and experienced teachers fled after 2007. This month, the fourth installment showed how black students in Pinellas County are suspended out of school at four times the rate of other children — one of the widest disparities in Florida.

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego, who was given an opportunity to respond Thursday, said that there was progress being made that needed to be recognized.

"The fact is that we're moving in the right direction," he said.

Grego, who was hired in 2012, has provided the five elementary schools with additional money and resources, including classroom aides and mental health counselors. He has stepped up credit recovery options for students, which has contributed to an increase in the graduation rate for all students.

Last year, about 61 percent of black students graduated high school, which was below the state average but an improvement over past years.

Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at [email protected]

Comments
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18
An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

An ambitious new goal for Hillsborough schools: Every child up to speed on reading by third grade

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins has an ambitious new goal. He wants more students to be proficient in reading."I think it is the code to crack," Eakins said in an interview. He also told the School Board on Tuesday that ...
Published: 06/08/18