John Hopkins, a middle school magnet for the arts and journalism in St. Petersburg's low-income Midtown neighborhood, is on the way back. A year after 100 students were arrested, the number of arrests is way down and optimism for the future is way up among teachers, parents and students.
The school's ongoing turnaround offers a lesson in education reform. Alerted last year to an out-of-control school by parents and teachers, Pinellas school district officials first downplayed the severity of the problems, saying they were blown out of proportion. But parents and teachers would have none of that.
They forced the district to pay attention. And to their credit, top district officials finally addressed the problems and started giving the school the resources it needed. Soon the school got a new principal — Barry Brown — and a new attitude. Brown is clear that backing his teachers as well as consistent discipline and explicit student expectations are all integral to success. He and other John Hopkins officials are modest about their achievements — the school is on an upward path and needs to keep headed that way.
That sort of candor should help parents and students to take a fresh look at the school, which was known for its top-notch arts programs before its arrest records grabbed the headlines. The application period for magnet schools opens at the end of next week, and John Hopkins' faculty hopes parents and students will give it a serious look.
John Hopkins is improving because the district quit ignoring problems and started dealing with them by bringing in competent administrators, more resources and clear expectations for students. That's a lesson to remember.