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Pinellas Schools Changes Announced, Review Requested




A day after the Pinellas County Schools Superintendent announced changes to five failing St. Petersburg elementary schools, the U.S. Department of Education has been asked to review county programs serving poor children. 

Tampa Bay Times investigation found that Lakewood, Maximo, Fairmount Park, Melrose and Campbell Park Elementary schools were among Florida's lowest achieving in reading and math. All are located in mostly poor, black neighborhoods.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Tuesday asked Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to increase its oversight of the district and review of how it uses Title I funds. That money is designed to help close academic performance gaps between low-income students and other students.

Castor, whose district includes the five elementary schools, asked Duncan to “review the crisis in our local schools and help the students of South St. Petersburg receive the tools they need to be successful.”

On Monday, Superintendent Michael Grego said he plans to convert three of those schools into magnets, programs where families from across part or all of the county may apply. While he said the idea has been in the works for a year, his announcement came just days after the Times published the first of its "Failure Factories" report.

"The schools that were mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article are such that we have to get other systems in place to really get our arms around the operations of those schools and now we're ready to move to another step," said Grego. "And that is the further diversifying of those schools. So there's always been a sense of urgency."

Grego's plan would make Lakewood Elementary an International Baccalaureate program, Maximo would focus on business and leadership and Fairmount Park would highlight science, technology, engineering and the arts.

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