Saturday, October 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: One neighborhood’s lesson in how a community can resurrect a school

High-quality public education hinges on good traditional public schools. Magnets and other specialized programs are not for every student, and they’re not meant to be. In Pinellas County, the district’s array of school choice offerings tends to get the most attention, but a budding turn back toward neighborhood schools, spearheaded by parents, offers a vision for making more neighborhood schools the first choice for families — and for resuscitating a robust system of public education, which is key to the Sunshine State’s future.

For years, North Shore Elementary was a low-rated school of last resort. It draws from affluent areas of St. Petersburg including the Old Northeast, Snell Isle and Northeast Park. But it also has a substantial number of low-income students, and had a grade of D from the state due to low test scores. Many parents inside the zone dismissed North Shore as an option and sent their kids to parochial and private schools, or drove miles from their neighborhoods to district magnet programs, fundamental schools and charters.

Then, in 2015, a small group of parents embarked on something of an experiment: to make the neighborhood school the preferred choice for families and, in turn, make the school better. As Times staff writer Colleen Wright reported, they formed the nonprofit Friends of North Shore Elementary, raised $27,000 to make physical improvements to the campus and started spreading the word to more families.

Two years in, the difference is incremental but real. Where 49 percent of zoned families chose North Shore in 2015, now 52 percent attend. Some parents gave up coveted spots in magnet programs to become North Shore Knights, and at least one family pulled their kids out of the prestigious and pricey Shorecrest Preparatory School in favor of North Shore. The school’s grade has improved to a C, and officials think it could tick higher when new test scores come out. Then there are the intangible benefits: kids being able to walk or bike to school, a student population made up of kids from surrounding neighborhoods who live close to each other, not to mention the stress avoided by skipping the high-stakes lottery for limited magnet spots.

A parent-led revival has worked before. Families around Shore Acres Elementary rallied to boost enrollment at that school, which had been steadily losing students. The big test will be whether this can be replicated on a wider scale and in less affluent neighborhoods. Good neighborhood schools need parents to donate time, energy and even money. Families where both parents work full-time and single-parent households often don’t have as much flexibility as those where mom or dad stays home.

Friends of North Shore plans to take its mission outward, and the school district should throw all the support it can behind that effort and seek more ways to champion neighborhood schools to make them a bigger draw, particularly in middle- and working-class parts of Pinellas.

Traditional public schools are where public education will succeed or fail. And the chance of success improves when the push is organic, coming from within the school community and its neighborhood rather than from faraway Tallahassee and its overbearing mandates. No matter where it starts, the effort requires good teachers, strong principals and buy-in from parents. By pooling their energy and resources, a group of St. Petersburg parents has started a renaissance at North Shore Elementary that can be a model for raising the game at more of Pinellas County’s neighborhood schools as well as those across the state.

Comments
Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Sharing memories of the “wish book,” shopping on Saturday nights and many memorable purchases
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: FBI should take a hard look at CareerSource

The scrutiny now extends to the state agency that oversees the local jobs centers
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Experts are right that Hurricane Michael should force a review of Florida’s building standards. While newer homes generally fared better than older ones, the state needs to reassess the risks posed by high winds and storm surge.
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: Glazer Children’s Museum quickly regained its step

Jennifer Stancil was terminated from her $169,280 a year job last month as museum president and chief executive, a post she held for three years. Exactly why remained a mystery to those outside the museum.
Published: 10/18/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Twenty-seven journalists have been murdered so far this year just for doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number doesn’t even include Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist who hasn’t been ...
Published: 10/17/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

The Florida Supreme Court reached the right conclusion by ruling that the next governor has the authority to appoint three new justices to the court rather than departing Gov. Rick Scott. That is practical and reasonable, and it reflects the will of ...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/19/18

Editorial: Housecleaning was necessary at Clearwater parks department

The theft of money and a hostile atmosphere show a city department out of control
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants voters to believe he is different than his Republican colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump. The Palm Harbor Republican says he pays more attention to local issues than to the president, claims he doesnȁ...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/16/18
Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

The Hillsborough County school tax on the Nov. 6 ballot is a smart, necessary investment in the nation's eighth-largest school system. The 10-year, half-penny sales tax would create stronger, safer schools and a healthier learning environment for mor...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/19/18