Reed leaves Pinellas school district

Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D., Nikita J. Reed

By Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D., contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — Just as we were making progress improving schools in south St. Pete’s Transformation Zone, we have been dealt a severe blow. Nikita J. Reed, director of Transformation Zone, is leaving the Pinellas School District.

Dr. Grego announced her departure May 4 and her recommended replacement in a written document on May 5.

If approved by the School Board, Reed’s replacement will be a white female from Orange County, Fla., currently serving as the S. W. Regional Executive Director, Bureau of School Improvement, Florida Department of Education. The community (COQEB, NAACP, pastors, parents, volunteers, etc.) was not informed or consulted.

When I heard the news, I reflected on lyrics from a popular song by the Spinners where the question is posed: “How could I let you get away when I knew I’d need somebody soon?” How did we lose an educator who, in one year, moved a school on the state’s list of failures for six consecutive years up two letter grades? Melrose Elementary’s F grade was moved to a grade of C under her direction and guidance.

Last year, schools in the Transformation Zone continued to excel. Two schools maintained C grades with learning gains, two D schools made significant learning gains, and one other school’s performance improved one letter grade.  Ms. Reed’s leadership and commitment, her principals and team were commended for the improvements.

I have been an active volunteer and advocate for closing the achievement gap in Pinellas for more than 40 years. The district has made more progress under Reed’s leadership than at any other time during my service.

Although she will not speak adversely about the district, I can only assume, based on my observations, that her departure is linked in some way to a lack of support. On more than one occasion, our elected board member representing south St. Pete has demonstrated an inability or lack of desire to support Reed and the Transformation Zone.

The learning curve for Reed’s replacement is going to be a steep one. Her subject matter expertise may or may not be sufficient; however, the issues of culture, ethnicity, and local community norms will predictably be challenging given the way she was selected.

Community partners, parents, clergy, etc. were neither consulted nor informed. The news of her arrival leaked. Challenges in this area could have been minimized or avoided.

Those familiar with the Spinners’ tune will recall the line, “they’re all laughing at you, I am laughing at you too. . .”  I will speculate and say, the district or school hiring Ms. Reed in the future will certainly laugh at the Pinellas District and ask, “How did they let her get away?”

Further, I can hear them say, “Pinellas’ loss, our gain!”

I remind everyone to remain committed to Reed’s Mantra: “Scholars First” and her guiding slogans: “Love the Transformation Zone Absolutely” and “Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership.”

Let’s continue to love, support, and advocate for our children and the educational leaders, teachers, academic coaches, school-based staff, etc., working to ensure their success.

We will miss Nikita J. Reed.

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