The saga at Hollywood High

‘For the last two years, I have engaged Lakewood’s principal and area superintendent regarding the number of scholars who were not on track to graduate,’ said Goliath Davis, III, Ph.D.


ST. PETERSBURG — For some time now, Lakewood High School has been undergoing a physical facelift. The renovations are improving the appearance of the school in a dramatic way, and sports are heralded. But based on the phone calls I receive and concerns expressed by community members, the salient question is, what is the status of education at Lakewood?

For the last two years, I have engaged Lakewood’s principal and area superintendent regarding the number of scholars who were not on track to graduate. I was discouraged by the news the first year and thoroughly annoyed the second year when the situation repeated itself.

Erin Savage, Lakewood High School principal

I could not believe that after working with the principal, Erin Savage, and Area Superintendent, Dr. Dywayne B. Hinds Sr., the exact situation repeated itself the second year. Both incidents occurred late in the academic year, resulting in last-minute scurries to rectify the problems.

Additionally, I was given less than candid information regarding why the scholars were in peril. Failure to perform adequately on the state exam may prevent a student from graduating. However, it is not the only reason.

Attendance, insufficient credits, grade-point average and failure to take or pass required courses may also preclude graduation. I requested data from the area superintendent to delve deeper into the matter, and the response was less than candid. I will not speculate about the reason why.

This year, I learned leadership team members are being worked with to improve the educational environment for Lakewood scholars. Naturally, I inquired about the situation with the area superintendent and asked if the principal was also included. He respectfully indicated he could not discuss personnel matters, and I fully understand the response.

However, I inquired further and asked whether or not there was a comprehensive, holistic plan to improve Lakewood’s educational environment and received a positive response. When I expressed my desire to review the plan with Hinds, I was sent a copy of the School Improvement Plan.

School Improvement Plans were in effect during the aforementioned two years, and yet scholars were in peril. In other words, those who know are aware School Improvement Plans are not the answer to the questions I raised.

To be fair, parents and students alike share some responsibility for their education. However, we all know absent leadership and guidance, some students and some parents will not meet the challenge.

Area Superintendent Dr. Dywayne B. Hinds Sr.

Additionally, some parents are not equipped to navigate the system, given the difficulties they had in school. Without effective leadership, teachers are stuck doing their best to educate our scholars with limited support.

If things are going to change, the entire leadership team must be engaged. The school’s principal is essential, and it is not sufficient to focus only on a few. All non-performing members of the team must be addressed, and the baseball coach who reportedly uses racial slurs and tolerates the same behavior by some players must be corrected. The CAT and journalism programs also need support and advocacy.

Hopefully, Stephanie Woodford, the “miracle worker” from Lakewood Elementary, is prepared in her new role as second in command to the superintendent to step in and ensure the scholars at Lakewood, along with the teachers and staff, get what they need to be successful. After all, she saved Lakewood Elementary.

Goliath Davis is a former chief of police and deputy mayor for the City of St. Petersburg who actively advocates for education in Pinellas County.

3 Replies to “The saga at Hollywood High”

  1. Hassan Lang says:

    While it is obvious of the “number of scholars” that are not on track to graduate, there are even ore whom are. Those who are not on track mostly are the ones who don’t chose or wish to be on track. Those are the kids who have to be redirected each period to go to class, to get a late pass, where is your laptop or get sent to IC. These kids are lost in a cell phone and social media driven world that is tarnishing and crippling the youth and their future. Yes we can blame the school and educators or any of the leadership team members but at the end of it all it’s the parents and guardians of those individuals. The ones who get the blame for them not being on track are only with them 1/4 of their day (if they even come to school or class) . What are they doing or how are they being held accountable with the rest of the day? It takes a village and pointing the finger only highlights the problem or issue we all have to be hands on and make the difference with these young people.

  2. S. Rose Smith-Hayes says:

    Thank you Dr. Davis. I learned at a Pyhllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign meeting that books are online. If a parent wishes their child to have a book, they can go to the school and check one out. This is a huge issue for grandparents that are raising grandchildren. The grandparents do not always understand the computer system used for ‘parents’ to engage. Parents really need to attend Open House and PTA meetings and SAC meetings to learn what is happening. Parents must become engaged and become computer literate. The majority of communication is on the online. Someone needs to go to Gibbs and get involved in what is not happening academically there.

  3. Jennifer McKnight says:

    My name is Jennifer Mcknight, i was a teacher for lakewood high for 3 years. My contact was terminated by Erin Savage in 2021. I was given my first discipline in 2021 for tutoring students during my planning period. I taught Biology Honors and AP Biology. I taught in the district for 5 years and never was in trouble, given warnings, or recurve a discipline against my record. I would love to give an interview regarding conditions at the school. These are the years I taught at Lakewood, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020- 2021.

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