In Pinellas County, we have 21 schools with less than 50 percent of our third graders reading on or above grade levels, according to the Florida Department of Education’s website. Examples of this atrocity include Melrose Elementary who in 2015 had only 10 percent of their third graders reading at or above grade level; Campbell Park at 19 percent and Fairmont Park at 17. These schools black student enrollment exceeded 80 percent.
Earlier this month, the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP hosted two community conversations with Cornell University professor and author Dr. Noliwe Rooks. Her invitation hinged on the need for her educating our community on the history of public education in addition to offering some guidance on how as a community we could directly impact the achievement gap for African students in Pinellas County.
Dr. Rooks’ challenge to this very diverse group of Pinellas County stakeholders was to identify one or two areas that we could collaborate on in hopes of supporting the district in closing the achievement gap. The two areas identified were reading and mental health.
Taking that charge, the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP has begun to take steps to advocate and facilitate a community-wide strategy that embraces reading and mental health services for our children and families in crisis.
Within Pinellas County, more than $400 million have been spent trying to “fix” black people; yet, a large percent of our children still cannot read. The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP hope is to facilitate the dialogue in hopes that the district, institutional partners, Greek organizations, churches, politicians and parents can envision a community that values reading in our words and deeds.
The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP Education Committee meets every third Saturday at 10 a.m., 1221-22nd St. S. Please join us at the next meeting scheduled May 19.
For more information, please contact (727) 798-5361!
Maria L. Scruggs, President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP