On Dec. 18, 2007, the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration. They justified the vote with bold promises: Schools in poor, black neighborhoods would get more money, more staff, more resources. They delivered none of that.
This is the story of how district leaders turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories.
Facing pressure after ‘Failure Factories,’ Pinellas proposes sweeping fixes Apr. 5, 2016
NEW District leaders released a broad set of recommendations aimed at repairing the damage done to schools in St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods after years of neglect, including paying teachers up to $25,000 more a year.
U.S. Education Department opens civil rights investigation into Pinellas schools Apr. 4, 2016
NEW The investigation by the department’s Office for Civil Rights will determine if Pinellas systematically discriminates against black children.
Hired in wake of Times series, turnaround leader faces uphill battle Mar. 25, 2016
Antonio Burt will have to tackle school failure on a massive scale and work with leaders who have been reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the problem.
Read the series
Prologue Aug. 12, 2015
Why Pinellas County is the worst place in Florida to be black and go to public school
A series of charts that sheds light on the county’s alarming failure rate.
Part One Aug. 14, 2015
How the Pinellas County School Board neglected five schools until they became the worst in Florida
First they abandoned integration. Then they failed to send help. Now, five once-decent schools in St. Petersburg are among the very worst in the state.
Part Two Aug. 21, 2015
Violence is a part of daily life in Pinellas County’s most segregated elementary schools
Five elementary schools had more violence than all 17 high schools combined.
Part Three Oct. 17, 2015
In five segregated schools, kids get worse teachers
An exodus of veteran teachers left rookies to take on some of the county’s most challenging students.
Video: Teachers describe worsening conditions
More photos of the children we interviewed
Hear from the kids Sept. 1, 2015
For 31 kids, this is what it’s like to go to resegregated schools
Children tell of fear, failing and a certainty that something better must be out there.
Part Four Dec. 6, 2015
45,942 days lost to discipline
Pinellas suspends black kids more than virtually every other big Florida district.
Part Five Dec. 23, 2015
For most black students in Pinellas, the county’s best schools are out of reach
District leaders made a series of decisions that added up to fewer black children getting into special programs called “fundamental” schools.
Epilogue Dec. 29, 2015
Trying to get out of some of the worst schools in Florida
Every family has its own story, but most want the same thing: To flee south St. Petersburg’s failing schools any way they can.
Hear from the School Board Aug. 14, 2015
7 elected school officials respond
We asked questions about the five schools in the series. Here’s what they said.
Black leaders skeptical about district plan to fix ‘Failure Factories’ Apr. 6, 2016
NEW Black leaders on Wednesday vented frustration at being left out of new proposals to aid St. Petersburg’s black students and failing schools, but said they welcomed the spotlight that has been cast on the problems.
Pinellas proposes pay bump up to $25,000 for teachers at struggling schools Mar. 29, 2016
NEW Teachers and administrators at five struggling elementary schools stand to make up to $25,000 more next year, one of several major reforms proposed to transform the south St. Petersburg campuses, Pinellas County schools officials said Tuesday night.
Parents speak out about five failing schools at NAACP forum Mar. 19, 2016
About 40 parents, school leaders and community members attended the forum to share their experiences in the five schools highlighted by the Times’ investigation.
Pinellas eases discipline policies; advocates call for more action Mar. 15, 2016
School Board members voted unanimously to punish students less harshly, but advocates said the changes were “baby steps.”
Legislators earmark $400,000 for struggling schools Mar. 10, 2016
The money will fund a reading program at the five elementary schools the Times’ investigation focused on.
Plaintiffs seek to reopen federal school desegregation case against Pinellas County Mar. 2, 2016
Citing broken promises by the Pinellas County School Board, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit announced Wednesday that they are going back to court in a bid to force school leaders to aid struggling black students.
Pinellas School Board limits out-of-school suspensions, fires back at critics Feb. 9, 2016
The Pinellas County School Board agreed Tuesday to ease the district's discipline policies by cutting the number of days a student can be suspended out of school and no longer deducting from their grades on make-up work.
Pinellas downplays problems at five schools, but hires leader to fix them Dec. 8, 2015
The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday aired a video in which local business leaders praised district officials and downplayed the troubles at five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Minutes later, however, board members voted to hire a new administrator whose job will be to help turn those schools around.
Pinellas hiring turnaround leader for five schools Dec. 7, 2015
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego is hiring a new administrator to oversee improvement efforts at the Failure Factories schools. The new position will provide principals “day-to-day” guidance.
U.S. education secretary blasts Pinellas schools for ‘education malpractice’ Oct. 24, 2015
“What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said upon visiting Campbell Park. “Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry.”
Confederate flag punctuates Pinellas School Board discussion on failing schools Aug. 25, 2015
A longtime education activist unfurled a Confederate battle flag Tuesday in front of Pinellas County School Board members during the first School Board meeting after Failure Factories ran.
Black leaders say district broke promises, threaten to go back to court Aug. 24, 2015
Group’s letter to superintendent: “We feel the conduct of the district over the last five years has left us with no other alternative.”
Pinellas schools chief tries to reassure parents Aug. 21, 2015
A community forum on the topic drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150.
U.S. Rep Kathy Castor calls for federal review Aug. 18, 2015
“Our federal and state laws — and our values — require that all children, no matter what neighborhood in which they live, receive an equal opportunity to a high quality education,” she wrote. “That is not happening for the students in south St. Petersburg.”
Officials announce stepped-up efforts Aug. 17, 2015
The district plans to convert some of the failing schools to magnet programs.
Times education reporters Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner, investigative reporter Michael LaForgia and photographer Dirk Shadd spent a year tracing how Pinellas County School District leaders have neglected their neediest schools. The articles were written while LaForgia was participating in the National Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism.