Years of neglect transformed five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg into some of the worst in Florida. Families who can’t afford to move are trapped there amid violence and diminished expectations.
Penniless and unable to move, Candice Billingsley had to send her daughter Allana to Melrose, the worst elementary school in Florida. She couldn’t afford to send her anywhere else.
She found an apartment close to the hospital because she had no car.
Her older son, Ivan, enrolled at Campbell Park, the 15th worst school in Florida.
Bullies at the school tormented Cayton. His grades slipped. Lawanda felt like she was failing him as a mother.
After that, Candice was more determined than ever to get her family out. She applied for subsidized housing outside of St. Petersburg and kept her fingers crossed.
Ivan was eating lunch in the cafeteria when a classmate attacked him. He came home bruised and swollen.
Cayton made it through the fourth grade at Fairmount Park and begged his mother not to send him back. Lawanda entered him into the school district’s lottery for magnets and special programs.
Months after she applied for subsidized housing, Candice landed a house in Largo.
The new neighborhood meant Allana could go to C-rated Ridgecrest, far from her bullies at Melrose.
At the end of the summer, she heard back from the school district.
His story is just the beginning.
We will not use your email address for any other purpose.
Additional production by Eli Murray.