BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D.
A call to action – Gibbs loses an assistant principal
Gladiators and others passionate about the education of children and the alarming achievement gap which exists between African American and white students in Pinellas County and throughout the nation should be alarmed by recent policy statements by Pinellas Deputy Superintendent Bill Corbett regarding the equitable allocation of resources to Gibbs, Lakewood, Boca Ciega and other Pinellas District Schools in accordance with the Bradley and Crowley court decisions.
Under the leadership of Dr. Julie Janssen, Ph.D., attorneys for the Bradley and Crowley plaintiffs successfully negotiated the principal of “equitable allocation,” which recognizes that schools with the greatest need require additional resources and accelerated efforts to close the achievement gap.
Former Gibbs principal, Dr. Kevin Gordon, Ph.D., utilized equitable allocation to implement staffing models and strategies to improve Gibbs’ grade. Since his departure, the district has slowly pulled back on prior commitments.
On March 5, Corbett was asked about published reports that Gibbs, Lakewood and Boca Ciega were slated to loose alarming numbers of teaching/ staffing units for the upcoming school year based upon a rubric that treats all schools as if they are similarly situated. This is contrary to the equitable allocation provision of the memoranda of understanding between COQEB and the district.
The aforementioned schools have a disproportionate number of students performing below state achievement standards on the FCAT. Consequently, their leadership teams are under constant pressure to attain passing school grades. The consequences for failing to do so results in negative stigmatization for the schools, students, staff, leadership teams and the communities.
Corbett assured COQEB members and attendees that the printed reports were premature inasmuch as the district was in the early stages of planning. Additionally, he reported principals will have opportunities for input, and more importantly, stated unequivocally that school principals would be allowed to retain resources they explicitly stated were needed.
In order to ensure there was no confusion, I repeated his comments and asked those in attendance if they heard and understood Corbett’s articulated position.
Subsequent to the discussion and the end of the meeting, Corbett requested a meeting with Attorney Roger Plata and COQEB President Rick Davis, where he provided a planning time line and assurances that there would not be any changes prior to consulting COQEB and the NAACP.
Unsubstantiated rumors surfaced prior to the May 7 COQEB meeting concerning the dismantling of the successful cohort model implemented by Gordon, and retained by current principal Stephanie Adkinson. I advised Davis of the rumor that Gibbs was losing an assistant principal and he assured me the rumor lacked validity in that he had not been contacted by Corbett as promised.
I informed Corbett of the rumor at the May 7 COQEB meeting, reminded him of his March 5 commitment and his commitment to Plata and Davis. Gordon explained why the cohort model with an extra assistant principal was implemented, and that it produced the desired outcome (raised the school grade).
Gibbs’ school grade also increased under Adkinson’s leadership and she attributes the success in part to the cohort model and the additional assistant principal.
Surprisingly, when pressed, Corbett affirmed the accuracy of the rumor. The district has decided to dismantle the cohort model as it currently exists. But, more surprising, given his assurances to Davis and Plata, and the existing court orders, was his announcement that he did not feel it necessary to consult with COQEB regarding his decisions.
Considerable time and effort has been devoted to establishing a non-adversarial relationship with the Pinellas district school administration; however the organizational culture seems slow to change. Logically, one must ask why the haste to dismantle proven strategies and innovations. Could it be a test of wills or simply a response to others in the district who oppose differentiated responses based on need?
Let’s reinstate the assistant principal position and allow Gibbs to continue on its path toward improvement. If jealously is a motivation for those who oppose the additional assistant principal at Gibbs, I suggest the appropriate response is to apply for transfer and enjoy the additional AP as well as the other amenities that are uniquely Gibbs.
Gladiators, the time has come to call/write your school board members, Superintendent Grego and anyone else who will listen—Gibbs need to continue its forward progress.