Lakewood High School update

‘I am pleased to report that while Lakewood still has some challenges, the outlook is promising,” said Dr. Goliath Davis.

BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, Ph.D. | Contributor

As I travel throughout the community, I am repeatedly asked, “What’s going on at Lakewood?” I am pleased to report that while Lakewood still has some challenges, the outlook is promising. Principal Connisheia Garcia and her staff work vigorously to change Lakewood’s culture and redirect the Lakewood School Community.

I am pleased to report that scholars and parents alike are on board with Lakewood’s new direction. While all still value its athletic reputation, there is considerable excitement surrounding Garcia’s commitment to elevating the most important companion to athletics: Academics.

She and her team have launched numerous initiatives focusing on academic proficiency. Parent and student informational fairs have allowed all concerned to glean valuable knowledge regarding their progress toward graduation. Garcia initiated the school-sponsored forums immediately upon her arrival, and they continue. Consequently, unlike in previous years, there should be no surprises as graduation approaches.

I vividly remember a phone call from a parent and her scholar regarding their perceptions of conditions at Lakewood High. The parent began the conversation, reminding me how disappointed she was when the prior principal was transferred. She readily admitted she was angry with me regarding the transfer and told me how happy she is now with the changes and the new direction. Her daughter indicated she enjoys going to school now.

I have heard similar testimonials from parents and scholars. I am convinced they have embraced the new direction. However, the changes are creating some discomfort for some faculty and staff members. I hear from them as well.

There is considerable excitement among students and parents who are committed to a proposal to introduce some vocational components at Lakewood. According to proponents of the proposal, renovations are underway to facilitate the new programs. I have yet to get confirmation on these initiatives from school-based or district administrators, but I find the excitement voiced by scholars and parents encouraging. Hopefully, once enacted, we can retain scholars who would have otherwise quit.

While I extend kudos to Garcia, her team, the staff, scholars and parents dedicating themselves to reclaiming all of Lakewood’s glory — both athletic and academic — I recognize the desired change is still a very heavy lift. With any change, there will always be some degree of discomfort experienced by individuals who have grown accustomed to the status quo and dread giving up their long-held investments. Garcia must recognize this phenomenon and lead accordingly. But make no mistake, some will not conform and may have to be replaced.

During my years working in the district, I have always argued against its resource allocation philosophy. A school’s census drives the number of academic counselors, etc., that are allotted despite the severity of the problems schools face.

My argument continues to be one based on hospital emergency room procedures. Everyone in an emergency room will ultimately get treatment, but the gunshot wound is not given the same weight as the common cold. The triage process allows for prioritization. Given the issues faced in many of our South County schools, they simply need more. If we are to change educational cultures and right the ships, we must allocate resources differently.

Lakewood is moving in the right direction, but let’s be prepared for either a drop in the school’s grade, no change in grad rates or an increase or decrease. State politics will dictate a lot. Nonetheless, given the current leadership and student and parent buy-in, I remain confident that the Lakewood transformation is well on its way.

Also, a belated congrats to Lakewood grad Marquez Valdes-Scantling on his second Super Bowl win.

Dr. Goliath Davis is a former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor who advocates for education in Pinellas County, focusing on Black student achievement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top