Response to ‘The miracle at Lakewood Elementary’

Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped by Lakewood Elementary on Aug. 12 to deliver $1,000 to the teachers for achieving an A grade in the 2020-21 school year. [Pinellas County Schools]

Dear Editor:

As a teacher that has worked at Lakewood Elementary for the last 3 and a half years, I am very disappointed in your complete failure to accurately assess this school’s improvement. You show a clear lack of information, or a complete negligent approach in your revealing of the information (hiding of information) that should be included.

In 2018 Lakewood Elementary was the worst of the Transformation Zone schools. It had the lowest rating of all schools in the zone and was one or the worst rated Elementary schools in the state. It’s battle to recover was always going to be longer and harder. Clearly, you have an agenda that it would never happen (especially after Ms. Reed’s departure).

I can tell you when you cast it as having happened in a year, you show a complete lack of any knowledge of how this school has been transformed over the last 4 years. Please remember in 2020, schools did not test and Lakewood was projected a C/B. In 2019, the school received a close D/F which was affected by student scores included in the school grade, that attended other schools. This was under Ms. Reed, whom you see so happy to praise and did do an excellent job.

Please remember sir it was Ms. Reed that left the Zone, the Zone did not remove her. I was lucky to work closely with Ms. Reed on our writing program at Lakewood Elementary and hold her in very high regard as well. Prior to Ms. Reed’s departure, she had seen the concrete changes at Lakewood, she (and later Dr. Webley, that you hold so much disdain for throughout your piece) had help institute.

Why sir are you so offended that those testing results came after Ms. Reed left? They are still partly to her credit. You are doing Ms. Reed a disservice as well when you make unfounded accusations about Lakewood Elementary.  I am very disappointed in your clear bias and divide on the matter. Have you spoken to her about what she saw at Lakewood prior to her departure? Have you asked her about our writing program? Our Math gains? She saw the projections before leaving.

Before going any further with your completely contrived lies and accusations of cheating, I must ask, besides your claims has anyone reported cheating to you? Anyone at the school? Anything from the children? Their parents? You sir may not realize, but it was our students that earned this A.  Your accusations without any formal source and simple conjecture are reprehensible and work against the 4 years of work it has taken to transform Lakewood Elementary. You are attempting to divide a community that is united around a school transformed. You are being negligent with your duty to be honest and not report outright lies and falsehoods.

There is just far too much to cover about how Lakewood Elementary achieved it’s A over a four year period, despite a pandemic. If you would actually like to have that discussion I would love to and I have included my private email. If you want to know how a school is truly transformed maybe talk to the people that worked everyday for the last 4 years to make it happen, along side Ms. Reed and Dr. Webley (Ms. Woodford, Ms. Nellenbach, LSI, Mr. Mills etc).

Lakewood Elementary took a direct outreach approach to getting proper education directly to our students in the middle of a pandemic.  If you would like to learn more about how we overcame, what so many other schools struggled with during the pandemic, I would love to sit down and explain to you the numerous roles myself and other educators played to make sure that the students of our community received an education during a pandemic regardless of their situation.

Maybe you could go to other Transformation Zone schools and help them achieve what we did. Did you know that by the end of the year, Lakewood had safely returned over 90% of our 4th and 5th graders? Did you know that a majority of our school grades came from 4th and 5th grade? Also, we did it without exploiting resources from other schools.

I will not even begin to discuss your clear bias against Ms. Webley or your cute pun. I do not believe your issue is with her and I know for a fact you do not know Lakewood Elementary. If you had visited us 4 years ago and visited us now, you would see the transformation, you wouldn’t hide behind irresponsible conjecture and outright falsehoods. We have enough political wrangling putting down our accomplishments and diminishing them that we don’t need to be undermined by educational advocates in our own backyard.

I am disappointed and your piece is poorly informed and lazy. I truly expect better from your publication that I have read often, while transforming Lakewood these last 4 years.

As one final note. Our writing scores were the best in the zone. They carried our ela gains. It is not possible to cheat, or feed answers for an essay exam. You have not even looked deep enough into the data to begin to understand what has taken place at Lakewood. Just very sad.

Thomas Muirhead, Educator

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