Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Grego's steps open way to better Pinellas schools

One thing is clear about Pinellas County's new school superintendent: He understands that to get different results, the district has to do things differently. Less than a month into the job, Mike Grego has challenged principals across the district to draft plans to extend academic hours on their campuses to help both struggling and excelling students to progress. And in a narrower initiative, he has launched plans to get seventh-graders thinking about college. These are ambitious and welcome ideas, and they send the right message to faculty, parents and the community that the new superintendent is serious about returning the luster to Pinellas County schools.

It could be a while before parents or teachers know exactly what Grego's challenge for longer school hours will mean for students. The superintendent purposefully deferred to individual principals to design programs that focus on reading, math, science and writing. He wants each school to design a program that best suits its population. Some schools, he said, will likely offer afterschool courses; others will opt for Saturday. He anticipates many schools will partner with community organizations. The programs will be voluntary, but Grego said he expects principals to impress upon parents, particularly those of struggling students, that attendance is in the child's best interest.

Grego is far from the first educator to view the school calender, with its roots in an agrarian economy, as outdated. Across the country, schools and even some districts have moved to year-round calendars or extended school days. But they remain outliers.

The Florida Legislature still only pays school districts to be open 180 days a year, even as modernity has increased the demands on school and student performance. And exactly how the school district will pay for the extended hours is also to be worked out. Grego anticipates collecting some additional federal grant money for disadvantaged students and redirecting other funds. Teachers who participate will be paid, he promised.

Grego's other initiative — to identify talented seventh-graders and give them exposure to the SAT college entrance exam and supplemental summer experiences — is also promising. Modeled after similar programs at top universities and one Grego started while superintendent for Osceola County, it has the potential to inspire the county's brightest students to stay engaged.

The public school system's job is to provide each student a year's worth of learning in a year's worth of time. But the old models are failing many students. Grego is empowering principals to lead the charge to reshape that model in Pinellas County for both struggling and excelling students. The district, parents and community will also need to step up to ensure these good ideas lead to real reform.

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Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18