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Forums focus on minorities in schools

African-American organizations want to stimulate a discourse on a variety of concerns about blacks in public schools.

By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Student achievement gaps, minority hiring and promotion, and graduation rates are among topics several influential African-American organizations want school officials to address.

A series of six forums will tackle the subjects, starting at 7 p.m. Monday at the James Weldon Johnson Library, 1154 18th Ave. S. Martha O'Howell, the school district's assistant superintendent for human resources, will speak and answer questions.

The public is encouraged to attend.

"There are some issues and things we're concerned about," said Vyrle Davis, chairman of the African American Voters Research and Education Committee, which is one of the sponsoring groups.

One of the Monday topics will focus on increasing the number of African-American principals in the school system.

In a letter sent last week to Howell, Davis said retirements this year will leave one African-American high school principal in the county. He said there were four between 1981 and 1983 and three between 1983 and 2002.

The NAACP, Urban League and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance also are backing the forums.

The overriding issue, according to an AAVREC document, is the school system's "fulfillment of its commitment to provide quality education for all students, particularly African-American students, in the district."

Two forums per month are scheduled through March. Afterward, said Davis, the sponsoring groups will analyze the school system's positions on the issues discussed, and if necessary, take proposals to the School Board.

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