Grego warns that more Pinellas schools could face state intervention

Published May 1, 2013

LARGO — Five schools in Pinellas County face serious state intervention after years of poor ratings, but more are headed for the same fate if academic performance doesn't improve, superintendent Mike Grego warned Tuesday.

Pinellas has 16 district schools with D or F grades, a number Grego called unacceptable.

"We cannot tolerate this number of students not succeeding," he told the School Board during its work session Tuesday.

Three F-rated schools — Maximo Elementary, Melrose Elementary and Azalea Middle — are subject to a state turnaround plan in the coming year. So are two D-rated schools, Pinellas Park Middle and Fairmount Park Elementary. The plans, submitted to the state Tuesday, require employees, including principals, to reapply for their jobs.

Eleven other schools, all of which dropped to a D last year, are on the cusp. When new grades come out this summer, another D would mean having to submit a plan to the state, with implementation the next year.

Some of those schools have the same problems — high turnover of staff and high poverty among students — that have dogged the original five schools.

The 11 schools are: Bay Point Middle, Bear Creek Elementary, Belleair Elementary, Campbell Park Elementary, Dunedin Elementary, High Point Elementary, Largo Middle, Pinellas Park Elementary, Ponce De Leon Elementary, Tyrone Middle and Woodlawn Elementary.

Board member Linda Lerner said some of the schools, such as D-rated Bay Point Middle, have had their grades bolstered by the high performance of students in magnet programs.

"If we didn't have those magnets with academic criteria to get in, they'd be right there (with the five schools)," she said.

Grego said the key is to make improvements before the schools reach the point where the state intervenes. The district should know what's needed and "if they're not in place, then shame on us," he said. To that end, the district will provide schools with full-time literacy coaches next year, along with part-time math or science coaches. The five schools on the state's list will have more coaches than other schools.

Grego also said he wants to limit turnover and make hiring at high-poverty schools a priority. Some staffing decisions will depend on the needs of the school.

Area superintendents have started reviewing principals at the five schools already subject to state intervention. District officials also are looking at the teachers. School officials couldn't say Tuesday how many employees would keep their jobs at the five schools. Melanie Marquez Parra, a district spokeswoman, said "some" would.

Most of those displaced, however, should find jobs elsewhere in the district.

Board member Terry Krassner said she hates to see the schools start over again.

"There's not been many constants for these buildings at all," she said. "How do they really know we're going to give them the support they need?"

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Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.