Dear Pinellas County Board School members:
After much thought and careful consideration, I am issuing this statement on behalf of the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP.
On April 12, the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP issued a position statement on the “Five Failing Schools,” which consisted of approximately six months of interviews and research with community stakeholders for the purpose of providing the district with meaningful and thoughtful input that we could hope position the NAACP as a credible voice and advocate for black children and move us closer towards closing the achievement gap in Pinellas County.
While sitting in the March School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego walked over to me and advised that his office would be in touch with me to schedule a meeting that would be conducive to my schedule to discuss the NAACP’s findings and recommendations, given that I worked out of town. That did not happen.
Thursday, May 5, the NAACP was notified via various community stakeholders that the district had in fact fired or involuntarily opted out the two principals at Campbell Park and Melrose Elementary Schools and all of the staff. While there appears to be an email circulating within the community to debunk the number of staff fired or the number of staff remaining, the point is that staff moves are being made and the district has yet to produce a tangible plan to this community stating the specific actions/goals toward turning these five schools around.
The NAACP also was provided with the district’s application to transform four of the five schools in south St. Petersburg into Magnet programs. The application makes it clear the ultimate goal is to create a “targeted marketing and recruitment effort from a more diverse pool of non-zoned students, should over time help these schools become more diverse, which research indicates leads to improved academic and life outcomes for all students.”
In spite of the understanding by some board members, that means to the NAACP that over time black children will be simply bussed out and white students with high academic promise will be bussed in, thus the district will see an improved school grade for our schools.
Some of the previous data shared with the NAACP indicated that prior to Pinellas County returning to neighborhood schools, in spite of the improved school grades in magnet programs, the data suggested that African-American children within the traditional schools within those schools performance mirrored what we are seeing within the neighborhood schools.
Some of the tenants of the NAACP’s position statement focused heavily on the need for the district’s leadership (School Board members and Dr. Grego) to take full responsibility for these school’s failures in hopes that the acknowledgement would force them to push more aggressively for tangible and substantive outcomes that demonstrate that in fact our children were learning. In fact what happened, the District approved a $12,000 increase for its deputy superintendent at a time when they had plans of impacting the livelihood of the folks on the front lines (teachers and principals).
The NAACP also called for a plan that could be readily understood by community stakeholders. There is still confusion within the community about Dr. Burt’s plan and the stats of the Scale Up For Success Plan.
In light of the absence of these very fundamental tenants of strategic planning and the existence of the appearances that it is “business as usual” in the journey toward closing the achievement gap for African-American students, the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP is calling for Dr. Grego to resign prior to the end of the 2015-16 school year, and if he doesn’t voluntarily step down for the Pinellas County School Board to fire him.
We can’t afford to wait one more year, in hopes that something will stick! Enough is enough!
Maria L. Scruggs, President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP # 5130