To the Gibbs Community and to the Friends of Gibbs in the Tampa Bay area, I am totally disheartened with the well-intentioned but totally misinformed coverage by many Tampa Bay news outlets on the viral video of a fight at Gibbs High School.
As a junior at this historic school, I can assure you that the way Gibbs has been represented in this clip is unfair. Throughout my time here, I have seen this school grow and prosper into the “B” school it always had the potential to be (and was, for nearly 30 years). A 27-year teacher informed me that teachers once referred to Gibbs as the “Best kept secret in Pinellas County Schools.”
Administrators, teachers, and even students have made a profound effort to move away from the reputation the school had garnered in the past. The extensive coverage is due to this past and would have never been so large-scale if an altercation occurred at another school in the district. In fact, fighting is a problem at most (if not all) schools in Pinellas County and much of the rest of the state.
Walking through the hallways at Gibbs, there has never been a time where I felt unsafe. “UFC style brawls” (as some outlets have referred to) are not a common occurrence at Gibbs. It simply isn’t the truth. It is very easy to report on the negatives of a school that was once very weak; but not enough attention is given to the strength we’ve accumulated over the past few years.
Throughout the current school year, we have effectively enforced a modified dress code. Over 90 percent of the school’s population is now complying and we are working steadily to bring that number to 100 percent. For the first junior cohort assembly of the school year, administrators and members of the Student Government Association dressed in caps and gowns and created a “mock graduation.” This was complete with programs and was meant to get juniors in the mindset for graduation.
Gibbs is also home to one of the largest Principal Multicultural Advisory Committees in the area; we have effectively raised awareness for programs such as the Homeless Education Assistance Team. This organization is making wonderful strides in aiding homeless teens and their struggling families (in the Pinellas County area) with their education and social needs.
In this years’ competition, half of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America members won awards. Our magnet programs, Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) and the Business Economic Technology Academy (BETA) are also on the rise. In the 2012 school year, BETA was presented with the second largest check in Pinellas County Schools for the large number of industry certifications obtained in the previous school year. In the 2012-13 school year alone, PCCA seniors earned over $3 million in scholarship monies. Likewise, PCCA has alumni all over the world who are attending and who have graduated from some of the most prestigious art institutions.
As you can tell, many big things are happening at Gibbs — and the positives outweigh the negatives (and always have). It would be wonderful if you could take the time to spend a day with me at this magnificent, historical institution.