Pinellas eyes new options for failing schools

Posted at 5:01 PM, May 10, 2016

Pinellas County Schools are looking at new measures to turn around failing schools. The proposals have a bold goal: 100 percent student success. But some families are still skeptical.

William Haugabook is a single father to his 5-year-old son, Richard. Richard is a kindergartner at Campbell Park Elementary in St. Pete, one of the county's failing schools. But he's seen real progress. 

"Since he's been here, he's been doing great," Haugabook said.

Haugabook's biggest concern is the lack of involvement by other parents, which he thinks leads to behavioral issues that affect the education of all kids.

"I think it's very unfair to expect the teachers to teach the kids and discipline them. If you've got an undisciplined child in the classroom, you're going to spend more time with him in the run of the day, then nobody gets to learn anything," Haugabook said.

But Pinellas County Schools say they're making progress and hoping to build on it. A plan the district's reviewing would turn up to seven struggling elementary schools into "transformation zones."

"What we're really focusing on is recruiting and retaining the best teachers. We want to make sure the most dedicated, successful teachers are paired with our most struggling students," said Lisa Wolf, Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman.

That's why "transformation zone" schools would offer teachers much higher pay, better training, and potentially a longer school day. It would also encourage families to get involved with monthly activities from fun events to time in the classroom with kids, so that parents can better help them with their homework.

"Pinellas County Schools has been aggressively addressing this issue. Our work now is to continue on that strong foundation we've established to keep making improvements for our students," Wolf said.

Another potential improvement the district is considering is applying for federal funds to add more magnet schools, because many magnet schools in the district have been successful. In the end, it hopes both concepts will give every student a better chance at success.

You can learn more about the transformation zones here.

The district will also host a hiring event for applicants interested in working at a high-need school. It's set for Wednesday, May 11, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Maximo Elementary at 4850 31st St. S. in St. Petersburg.