Pinellas reveals plan to fix failing schools

Posted at 4:39 PM, Apr 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 17:48:57-04

Pinellas County Schools is revealing their plan to fix several failing schools.

Dr. Antonio Burt, the district's new turnaround administrator, announced on Tuesday his recommendations to fix these struggling schools.

Schools he will directly oversee are Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools. Aspects of the transformation plan will also affect High Point Elementary and Sandy Lane elementary schools, school leaders said.

This comes as the Department of Education is investigating the Pinellas County School District to see if they discriminate against black students.

Burt's plan includes recruiting the best teachers to work for these schools, promising bonuses, more training and more classroom flexibility.

"We want to find those individuals who really have the passion and zeal to go above and beyond and we want to put them in the best position to be successful at our schools," Burt said.

He also plans to launch a "Transformation Team" made up of top district educators and coaches. Transformation Team members will be required to go to these schools at least twice a week to check in with teachers and educators, offering guidance and support.

This comes after teachers told administrators they needed more support from school leaders to do their jobs to the best of their ability, administrators said.

Burt is also looking to extend the instructional school day from about six hours to seven and a half hours a day. He said many kids in these struggling schools already have huge gaps in their learning and extending the school day is the best way to help close that.
However, some parents are still skeptical.

Tyrone Stevenson Sr. lives just steps away from Campbell Park Elementary School, yet refuses to let his son attend.

"We wanted him to get a better education and a better education is across town," Stevenson Sr. said.

His family wakes up a full hour earlier to take a bus to a school across town.

"These kids around here, especially in this neighborhood, they need education," Stevenson Sr. said. "Education more than anything. Keep them off the streets over here. Without that, they're nobody."

For parents like Stevenson Sr., who wants results now, Burt said research shows that his plan will make a positive change. Burt also plans to create "Parent Universities" at each school to further involve parents.

"It is a process," Burt said. "Trust the process. We're headed down the right direction."

Burt's plan officially takes effect in the 2016-2017 school year.