1. The Education Gradebook

Hooper: Encouraging ideas emerge in wake of 'Failure factories' report

Ron Diner, the director of strategic community partnerships for Raymond James, believes businesses could do more to help Pinellas' most troubled public schools.

With Lunch Pals, the company's mentoring program, 87 employees had weekly lunches with students at Mount Vernon Elementary last year. Choosing a school near the company's location minimizes time. Kids get a stable force in their lives; mentors get a greater understanding of the challenges.

Diner hopes to expand the program to include schools and institutions in south St. Petersburg. Raymond James will now fund a Lunch Pals coordinator through the school district. Want to help? Contact Diner at …

Edible Peace Patch Project is a school yard gardening program already in Title I schools in St. Petersburg. Kids learn math, reading and science skills, behavior improves, and the kids get to eat what they grow.

Peace Patch board chair Linda Micelli says it wants to expand the existing gardens and could use volunteers. Want to help? Email …

Other ideas: greater emphasis on early learning; more focus on the neediest communities; improved teacher training; making sure the proposed magnet programs don't become an educational version of Febreze, masking the real problems. …

No matter what, convene stakeholders — including the parents — and get everybody on the same page. Everything needs to be pieced together into a cohesive, cradle-to-college effort.

The recent Tampa Bay Times reports have sounded the alarm. Let's make sure the leaders don't hit the snooze button.

That's all I'm saying.