Gulfport Elementary Named Turnaround School

The Tampa Bay Times published an expose last August, showing an in-depth report on five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg; the state of Florida has since named those schools “turnaround” schools.

This week, the state added one more school to the list: Gulfport Elementary.

“Turnaround school’s criteria is set by the state’s department of education,” Lisa Wolf of the Pinellas County School Board said Wednesday, April 6. “And Gulfport was identified as a turnaround school by the state for receiving three ‘D’ grades by the state for three years in a row.”

With the designation, Gulfport Elementary teachers will now be required to re-interview for their positions. If they chose not to, they are able to file an “opt out” form in hopes of finding a new job elsewhere.

Gulfport’s Mayor Sam Henderson was none too pleased with the news.

“It’s short sighted,” Henderson said. “We were never informed at all, as a municipality. And a lot of our best teachers might not be there next year.”

Henderson explained that the school was only informed of this on Friday, April 1, and will have to chose whether or not to re-interview by this coming Friday, giving them one week to make a “major life decision.”

To make matters more difficult, Henderson states that the announcement came during standardized testing, the very test that the teachers’ performance is graded on.

The announcement came amid the news on Monday that the U.S. Department of Education has opened a civil rights investigation into whether the school board has been discriminating against African American children, mainly dealing with the five failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg dubbed “failure factories” by the recent Times articles. Gulfport Elementary is 70 percent minority, with 58 percent African American.

It is not immediately clear if Gulfport Elementary is being lumped into the “Failure Factories” or if they are being treated as such, but recent reports from several news outlets show that one of the changes to come for the failing St. Petersburg elementary schools will be pay raises to attract more qualified teachers.

The Gabber will follow up on this story as more information becomes available.

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