Why is Lakewood High School still behind?

The April 5 COQEBS meeting took a break from the Ruby Bridges debacle to focus on Lakewood High School’s progress or lack thereof.


ST. PETERSBURG – April’s Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students (COQEBS) meeting held at the Woodson African American History Museum on April 5 took a break from the Ruby Bridges debacle and focused on Lakewood High School’s progress, or lack thereof.

COQEBS is a coalition of community organizations and individuals organized for the purpose of working to ensure the Pinellas County School District fulfills its commitment to provide quality education for Black students.

COQEBS member Dr. Goliath Davis, III, said he is concerned that a significant number of Lakewood’s seniors are not on task to graduate. This is the third consecutive year he’s sounded the alarm.

“My disappointment is that one would’ve imagined that after the first year, processes or something would’ve been put in place so that you could curtail it for the second year,” Davis asserted, admitting that parents and students also have a role to play in the failure.

Area Superintendent Dr. Dywayne B. Hinds Sr.

He said he extended Area Superintendent Dr. Dywayne B. Hinds Sr. some grace because the first time it was brought to his attention, he had just been appointed. Davis anticipated something would have been done to “eradicate the situation” the second year.

“But here we are now in the third year, and he’s still area supe, and the principal is still the principal,” Davis said, noting that he has worked with them both. “So, I’m appealing now to leadership … to take some affirmative steps as it relates to this.”

Davis, a former police chief and deputy mayor of St. Pete and a public school watchdog, feels the culture at Lakewood has changed in such a way that it’s resulting in some very despicable behavior. For example, on March 23, there was a fight; the following week, March 27, 28, and 29, also saw major brawls, including the girls’ basketball team taking their rowdiness on the road and fighting the Clearwater team.

“Now, just yesterday (Tuesday, April 4), there were two more fights at the school, and something needs to be done because that’s not appropriate. The academic programs, from my perspective, are suffering. The traditional program, the journalism program.”

He mentioned even the once coveted CAT program is slipping in numbers and feels the school’s current state is a reflection on the area superintendent and principal.

“I’m not trying to get any leader fired, but there’s no way any leader should allow some of the things that are occurring to occur, and there’s no way that their supervisors shouldn’t be doing something to address it. Now, you put her leadership team on a success plan, but I don’t know if she’s on one.”

Davis said when he asked about a plan, he was sent the school improvement plan, which he feels is not implemented.

“I’ve been in this business for a long time, well over 40-something odd years dealing with the Pinellas County School District, and I know what a school improvement plan is. And I know that people put them on the shelf, they forget about them,” he said, advising that the school improvement plan doesn’t address the issues he’s raising regarding achievement.

Superintendent Kevin Hendrick admitted that Davis’s assessment is accurate and cites the pandemic for disproportionately affecting poor and minority children more than it did those in other categories.

Erin Savage, Lakewood High School principal

“A second factor related to this is, again, sort of under the radar; this year is the first year of new, more stringent graduation requirements in terms of concordance scores. I know that concordance scores have been discussed with this group in the past, but the reality is that even the scores that were college-ready years ago have now been upped more,” Hendrick said.

Davis has long been an opponent of concordance diplomas, which is a state-approved strategy to improve graduation rates by, among other things, allowing otherwise ineligible students to qualify for graduation by attaining a qualifying score of 16 or better on the ACT or a minimum of 430, on the SAT.

While concordance allows the district to fulfill requirements of federal and state lawsuits partially, it delays the inevitable: frustrations resulting from an inability to compete in the work world or attend college. The above minimum ACT and SAT scores are not acceptable for admission to most colleges and universities.

Hendricks said this year’s students are the first group under the new concordance standards. In terms of students being tracked district-wide, he said they follow every single school.

“We have a monthly meeting where we go through every single school and look at every subgroup and all the things that are done. Beyond that at Lakewood, I don’t think I’m going to comment more than to say I would encourage anyone who has an interest to reach out to the school.”

Some critics say Black students’ graduation rates were dismal before the pandemic if you do not include concordance diplomas, which are basically diplomas for failing to meet proficiency requirements. And now that standards are upped on these “substitute diplomas,” which are no more than certificates of attendance, the outcome will highlight even more how Pinellas County Schools are failing Black children.

Preparing children to graduate high school does not start in high school; it begins in pre-K.

Hendrick said the new testing, which started this school year, makes it impossible to compare this year’s testing to years past. He also said all scores this year across the state are down because of the way the assessment is. The new assessment is now a progress monitoring assessment.

“So, you take kind of a snapshot of what you know, say, in third grade. At the start of third grade, even though you haven’t been taught anything. Then you’ve taken another snapshot in the middle of the year and then a final snapshot at the end of the year after you’ve learned everything in theory.”

Dr. Davis reminded everyone that he has always challenged the district’s “braggadocios nature” regarding increased graduation rates.

They kept talking about increased graduation, increased graduation, increased graduation. That was under those concordance scores that I always call bogus diplomas,” Davis responded.

Davis said we need to step back and get down to the very basic level and not come up with state-approved gimmicks to increase graduation rates “when in reality, we are giving our children a false sense of success.”

He conceded that COVID did have an impact, but the failings are nothing new. The year before COVID, the school improvement plan was in place.

“So, when you send me a school improvement plan, tell me the school plan is going to improve this, and I know what the school improvement plan does; let’s just be honest and upfront and talk about what the real issues are and don’t try to hoodwink me because it just doesn’t work,” Davis said, adding that Hendrick was not the person trying to placate him.

2 Replies to “Why is Lakewood High School still behind?”

  1. Keith Griffin says:

    What has GO Davis done personally to help these students?? Nothing he has a lifetime of behind the door dealings. Nothing he says moves OUR COMMUNITY…. GO BACK TO BEING BAKERS LAP DAWG

  2. Dee says:

    I attended Lakewood Highschool from 2015 to 2019. Principal Savage was my principal for all my 4 years and I will say, you never saw her around the school and when you did she was leaned up against the wall on her phone or talking to other staff members. She hardly made any effort to reach out and get to know the students. If it wasn’t football or basketball, she wouldn’t attend. If their isn’t a tragedy with one of the students, she isn’t there. When she did the morning announcements, it was embarrassing (it was like she was reading from a script written last minute and was unsure about what she was reading). Needless to say, I DO believe she is the problem and needs to be replaced. Yes, the parents need to be more invested in their child’s academic success. Yes, parents aren’t discipling their children like they should. BUT it is Savage’s school. She needs to be held accountable too.

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