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  1. Education

NAACP in St. Petersburg calls for Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego to resign

Mike Grego has been under increasing pressure with reports of Pinellas County schools failing. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 12, 2016

The NAACP is calling for Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego to resign, saying he hasn't taken responsibility for the failure of five predominantly black elementary schools in south St. Petersburg or shared a clear plan to improve the campuses.

In a blistering letter sent Monday to the School Board, Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch, said that board members should fire Grego if he doesn't step down by the end of the school year. She said Grego had a "business as usual" attitude about the schools.

"We just have too much at stake with these children," Scruggs said Wednesday.

Grego said he had no plans to resign. In a response sent Wednesday, he said he was "committed to learning from our school district's history to make positive changes and improve learning for all students."

The NAACP released a report last month in which they said Pinellas County's black students haven't received an equal education, and that school leaders failed to ensure that students were learning at Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools. The five schools were at the heart of a yearlong Tampa Bay Times investigation, "Failure Factories," which traced the rapid decline of the schools after a 2007 vote by the School Board to abandon integration efforts in favor of neighborhood schools.

Scruggs said Grego hasn't met with her to discuss the NAACP recommendations. And she criticized Grego for moving ahead with a proposal to turn the five schools into magnet programs over the strong objections of community leaders. On Tuesday, Grego said he was reconsidering the proposal.

"We're just headed right back down the path of throwing stuff on the wall and hoping that it sticks," she said.

In his response, Grego said he has tried to schedule a meeting with Scruggs.

Grego, who was hired in 2012, has added classroom aides, counselors and social workers to connect families with outside services. He also hired Antonio Burt, the district's new transformation leader, and created an eight-member team under Burt to focus on the county's lowest-performing schools.

Several board members said Wednesday that they support Grego.

Rene Flowers said that she was "incredulous" about the letter. In an email, Terry Krassner said "much more needs to be done to turn around struggling schools," but Grego "continues to have my support." Linda Lerner said she was "very pleased" with Grego's leadership.

Ken Peluso said that he was "taken aback" by the NAACP letter. As a new board member in 2014, one of his first meetings with Grego included a discussion of what was being done for the five schools, he said.

"What was put in place in 2014 wasn't meant to be the end of the action," Peluso said.

Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com. Follow @Fitz_ly.

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