Many Pinellas third-graders improve in reading, while others still struggle
Fifty-six percent of Pinellas County's third-graders scored satisfactory or higher in this spring's English language arts state exam, up 3 percentage points over last year. The increase returns the district to where it had been in 2017. Each year, third-grade reading scores are the first of many state test results to be released, and they also are among those with the highest stakes attached. State law requires that third-graders who score at Level 1 in English language arts — the lowest level — repeat the grade unless they can qualify for one of six exemptions. In Pinellas public schools, 19 percent of third-graders fell into that category this year. The schools of most concern included New Heights Elementary, Melrose Elementary and Fairmount Park Elementary, where 20 to 23 percent of third graders got a passing score. On a more positive note, a school district analysis pointed to 20 elementary schools that saw double-digit increases in reading proficiency. The analysis also cited gains at seven of the 11 schools in the district's Transformation Zone, a collection of schools targeted for extra help. The district said the improvements were evidence of its efforts to work "aggressively to prioritize reading achievement in the early grades." More state test results are expected in June.
Families can still sign up for summer prekindergarten
The Pinellas County school system says there is still time for families to apply for its summer voluntary prekindergarten program, available at a number of schools. In addition to preparing children for school, the program helps them develop skills they need to become strong readers and enhances their social skills. Children who have not attended voluntary prekindergarten before can attend the program all day, all summer, for free. Summer VPK will take place June 5 to July 26 at these elementary schools: Bardmoor, Belleair, Campbell Park, Dunedin, Fairmount Park, High Point, Maximo, McMullen-Booth, Melrose, Northwest, Ridgecrest, Sexton and Tarpon Springs. For more information, visit pcsb.org/summervpk or call (727) 588-6513.
New head of school announced at Shorecrest Prep
Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg has announced the appointment of a new head of school, Nancy L. Spencer, who will assume the post on July 1, 2020. Spencer will succeed Mike Murphy, who has led Shorecrest for 14 years and will step down June 30, 2020. A national educational search firm, Carney, Sandoe & Associates, helped with the four-month search, led by Shorecrest's board of trustees. Spencer will be the seventh person to hold the position since the school was founded in 1923. She currently serves as associate head of school at Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn., where she has worked in various roles since 2005. During the previous 10 years, she was director of admissions and financial aid at Bullis School near Washington, D.C. She has a bachelor's degree from Brown University, a master of arts degree from Yale University and a master of business administration degree from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
Pinellas school employee a state finalist
Anthony "Tony" Langhorne, the 2018-19 School-Related Employee of the Year for Pinellas County Schools, recently was named one of the five finalists in the statewide competition for the award. Each of the finalists receives a $6,500 cash prize. The statewide winner was Bethany Lucas, an autism paraprofessional in Bay County, who took special steps to help students after Hurricane Michael devastated the area. Lucas donated a portion of her $10,000 in prize money to a clothing drive operated by her school district and other needs. The Pinellas school district says Langhorne is a strong advocate for the transportation department who always looks for ways to better train staff. He also is active in student mentoring and enlists coworkers to get involved, the district said.